May 20, 2024

By Josh Christenson


House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik called Monday for Congress to sanction the International Criminal Court following prosecutors’ announcement they will seek an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The ICC is an illegitimate court that equivocates a peaceful nation protecting its right to exist with radical terror groups that commit genocide,” Stefanik (R-NY) told The Post.

“Congress must pass my bill with Congressman Chip Roy, the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, that will punish those in the ICC that made this baseless undemocratic decision.”

ICC chief prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan announced the filing of arrest warrant applications against both Netanyahu and Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for allegedly committing crimes against humanity during the Jewish state’s seven-month-old war against Hamas in Gaza.

Earlier this month, Stefanik and Roy (R-Texas), responding to reports that the warrants would be sought, introduced the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act to revoke visas for ICC officials who investigate or prosecute US officials or American allies.

The bill also revokes visas for any other ICC employees or their immediate family members acting on behalf of such an investigation or prosecution.

Israel, like the US, does not officially recognize the ICC’s authority, giving it no jurisdiction over Netanyahu or Gallant, as South Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) pointed out.

“The decision to seek arrest warrants is not law but politics. It is not justice but rather retribution against Israel for the original sin of existing as a Jewish State and the subsequent sin of defending itself amid the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust,” Torres said on X Monday.

“Today’s decision in effect makes it criminal for a state like Israel to defend itself against an enemy shrewd enough to embed itself in a civilian population, as Hamas has done to an extent never seen before in the history of warfare.”

“It is outrageous that the ICC is equating a democratically elected government with a terrorist organization that indiscriminately murders men, women, children, and babies,” Rockland and Putnam County Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said in a statement. “There can be no moral equivalency here. Hamas is a terrorist organization that committed the worst mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust. Israel is the only multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious democracy in the Middle East. They are fighting to defend their homeland and rescue their people who were taken hostage by terrorists.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) in a Monday afternoon statement called the warrants “shameful and unserious.”

“America’s commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad,” Jeffries said after Biden had similarly denounced the prosecution. “I join President Joe Biden in strongly condemning any equivalence between Israel and Hamas, a brutal terrorist organization.

Stefanik met with Netanyahu on Monday morning as the warrants were announced, celebrating the prime minister’s “monumental step toward peace in the region” during the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords in 2020.

“As Bibi leads @Israel through one of the darkest moments in its history, we must stand unequivocally with Israel against Iran and their proxies who seek to destroy the only democracy in the Middle East,” she posted on X.

Stefanik is the highest-ranking member of the US House of Representatives to visit Israel since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre — and told members of the Knesset in a Sunday address that the US must provide support “without conditions.”

“There is no excuse for an American president to block aid to Israel — aid that was duly passed by the Congress,” Stefanik said of President Biden’s decision to withhold a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs earlier this month.

Later on “Fox News Sunday,” Stefanik accused the Biden administration of announcing the pause on the weapons shipment to curry favor with tens of thousands of “uncommitted” swing-state voters in the 2024 election who oppose Israel’s war against Hamas.

“This is about Joe Biden’s beleaguered and failing polls in states like Michigan. There is desperation politically,” she said. “Shame on Joe Biden. It is a betrayal of the importance of the US-Israel alliance that is the most precious in the region.”

The ICC prosecution was announced in conjunction with arrest warrants for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, Al-Qassam Brigades commander Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri and Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh.

All three are accused of committing crimes against humanity in Israel and the Gaza Strip, including the taking of hostages, rape and other acts of sexual violence and the murder and extermination of Jewish and American civilians.

Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 people, including 33 US citizens, during its surprise attack before taking more than 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Stefanik met with some of the families of the hostages during her trip.

“Israelis, Americans, and others were savagely kidnapped from their homes, beaten, tortured, and taken hostage to the terror tunnels beneath Gaza,” she said in her Sunday address.

“And we must remind the world every day that there are still over 120 souls held hostage — 226 days of captivity — including Americans, held by Hamas terrorist thugs,” Stefanik added. “Let me be very clear: We will not rest until the hostages are back home.”

According to the ICC, Netanyahu and Gallant have also committed war crimes by intentionally directing attacks against Palestinian civilians.

More than 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the territory, but the UN has been able to confirm that number and the tally does not distinguish civilians from terrorists.

“We do not believe what is happening in Gaza is a genocide. We have been firmly on record rejecting that proposition,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a White House press briefing last week, while adding that “Israel can and must do more to ensure the protection and well being of innocent civilians.”

Sullivan met with Gallant on Monday to be briefed on the current state of the hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement Monday afternoon, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) blamed “the Biden administration’s pressure campaign against Israel and its outlandish State Department investigations” for the ICC announcement.

“In the absence of leadership from the White House, Congress is reviewing all options, including sanctions, to punish the ICC and ensure its leadership faces consequences if they proceed,” Johnson said. “If the ICC is allowed to threaten Israeli leaders, ours could be next.”