Former Israeli leader urges 'dismantling' of ICC over arrest warrants: 'Political tool'

FIRST ON FOX — Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett added his voice to the growing condemnation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a prosecutor announced he would request arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas officials.

“It’s a shameful moment for the ICC,” Bennett told Fox News Digital. “It’s a total joke because they’re taking the leader of a democracy that’s fighting against a terror group. … We fully reject this.”

Bennett repeated the claims that Hamas had burned children and families, raped women and killed 1,400 Israelis while abducting 240 more and accused the ICC of acting as a “political tool” for the enemies of Israel who would equate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant with the terrorist group.

“No judge in his right mind would consider doing this,” Bennett argued. “Therefore, the ICC needs to be dismantled and defunded, and [we should] use all the tools available to do that.”


Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the General Assembly, Sept. 27, 2021, at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (John Minchillo-Pool/Getty Images)

Bennett called the effort to produce warrants for Israeli officials a “political play” and compared it to the abuse of the United Nations by members to condemn Israel while not condemning Hamas.

“It’s a farce,” Bennett said. “It’s not about the evidence. It’s not about facts. It’s about politics, and it’s no secret that these international organs are being used by Israel’s enemies time and again to try and tie our hands while we’re fighting against the worst jihad terrorists in the world.”

A panel of three judges will review ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s request for warrants for the two Israeli officials as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh and military commander Mohammed Deif for their roles in the Oct. 7 attack.

Amal Clooney, who assisted Khan in the assessment and filing for arrest warrants, wrote in a statement on the Clooney Foundation for Justice website that investigators on a panel “unanimously conclude that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Hamas leaders … have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including hostage-taking, murder and crimes of sexual violence.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attend a press conference at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images)

Khan said his office had also collected evidence that provided “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israeli officials “bear criminal responsibility for … war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine.”

Khan cited alleged crimes of “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare” and “internationally directing attacks against a civilian population.”


Netanyahu said the ICC warrants for “fallacious” crimes are an example of “what the new antisemitism looks like.” Bennett agreed with the assessment, going even further and calling it “anti-Zionism, anti-Israel, antisemitism.”

“We need to deal with it,” Bennett insisted. “We’re being accused of trying to starve the Gazans, but when you look at the evidence, we’ve let in 24,000 trucks, 400,000 tons of food and aid. That’s 30% more than before Oct. 7.

Terrorist leader Yahya Sinwar speaks at a podium while at a rally. (Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“We’ve been bending over backwards to reduce civilian casualties while Hamas is doing everything it can to increase civilian casualties, yet Israel is being accused,” he added. “We fully reject this. We need to continue and defeat Hamas. That’s the best response to all of this.”

Israeli war cabinet member and opposition leader Benny Gantz blasted the ICC’s announcement, saying “the prosecutor’s position to apply for arrest warrants is in itself a crime of historic proportion to be remembered for generations.”

Ismail Haniyeh, left, the Doha-based political bureau chief of Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with former Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, right, in Tehran March 26, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden soundly rejected the ICC’s effort to seek warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant and reiterated that the U.S. does not agree that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

Bennett said Israel has a “robust judicial system” which would assess and handle any crimes committed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, insisting that “we investigate, and when necessary, we prosecute.”


Israel is not a member of the ICC, which means that even if the court does issue the warrants, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution, but the threat of arrest could create difficulties for the officials while traveling abroad.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin after he ordered his forces to invade Ukraine in 2022. He has avoided traveling in countries that are ICC members and signatories of the Rome Statute, such as when he was the only leader in the BRICS bloc who did not attend a South African summit last year.

Karim Khan is the ICC’s chief prosecutor. (Getty Images)

South Africa had urged Putin to avoid visiting the country over fears that officials would find themselves in a difficult choice between arresting an ally or ignoring the Rome Statutes.

The South African president’s office, however, issued a statement Tuesday applauding the decision to seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders, keeping in line with the country’s campaign to seek criminal punishment for Israel for its actions in Gaza, Reuters reported.

“The law must be applied equally to all in order to uphold the international rule of law, ensure accountability for those that commit heinous crimes and protect the rights of victims,” President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.

South Africa has led a court case brought against Israel at the International Court of Justice accusing the country and its leaders of committing genocide in Gaza, most recently seeking an injunction to prevent Israel from continuing its operations in the territory.

Fox News Digital’s Greg Norman contributed to this report.

Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news. 

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