The Israeli government has warned the Biden administration that if the International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, it will take retaliatory measures against the Palestinian Authority that could lead to its collapse, two Israeli and US officials said.

Because it’s important: Israeli authorities have become increasingly concerned over the past two weeks that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is preparing to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

Driving the news: The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, has been investigating possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war since 2021.

  • That investigation was extended to the October 7 attacks and the war that has ravaged Gaza since then, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Backstage: In recent weeks, Israel has told the United States that it has information suggesting that Palestinian Authority officials are pressuring the ICC prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, two Israeli officials said.

  • US and Israeli officials said Israel has told the Biden administration that if arrest warrants are issued, it will hold the Palestinian Authority responsible and will retaliate with strong actions that could lead to its collapse.
  • One possible action could be to freeze the transfer of tax revenues that Israel collects to the Palestinian Authority. Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority would be bankrupt.
  • A senior Israeli official told Axios that the threat of ICC arrest warrants is real and emphasized that if such a scenario were to occur, the Israeli cabinet would likely make an official decision to punish the Palestinian Authority, which could lead to its collapse.
  • The White House and the Israeli prime minister’s office declined to comment.
  • Palestinian Authority officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The issue of possible ICC arrest warrants emerged during a call between Netanyahu and President Biden last Sunday, with Netanyahu asking Biden for help, Axios reported earlier this week.

  • Two U.S. officials said Biden told Netanyahu during the call that a report from Israel’s Channel 12 that suggested the U.S. might have given the ICC a “green light” to issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders was not true.
  • Biden emphasized during the call that the US opposes an ICC investigation into Israel.

Situation: Two US officials said the Biden administration told ICC officials privately that arrest warrants for Israeli leaders would be a mistake and that the US does not support the action.

  • “We are silently encouraging the ICC not to do this. This will blow everything up. Israel will retaliate against the Palestinian Authority,” said a US official.
  • The official added that although there is pressure on the ICC prosecutor to issue such arrest warrants, the Biden administration does not consider the measure to be as imminent as the Israelis think.

Between the lines: On Tuesday, White House spokesman John Kirby was asked during a briefing about threats from Republican lawmakers to pass legislation against the ICC, which were reported on Axios.

  • Kirby said the US opposes an ICC investigation into Israel, but stressed that it also opposes threats and intimidation against the court’s judges.
  • Israeli officials were alarmed by Kirby’s comments and asked the White House whether this represented a change in the US position. The White House said there was no change.

By Barak Ravid, via Axios.


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