US suggests support for possible ICC sanctions over Israel warrants

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested he will work with lawmakers on potential sanctions against the International Criminal Court as its prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials.
Mr Blinken told a congressional hearing he was “committed” to taking action against the “profoundly wrong-headed decision”.

His comments come amid a Republican push to impose sanctions on ICC officials, which may see a vote as soon as this week.

The United States is not a member of the court but has backed previous prosecutions, including the ICC’s arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James Risch, its top Republican, asked whether Mr Blinken would support legislation to address the ICC “sticking its nose in the business of countries that have an independent, legitimate, democratic judicial system”.

“We want to work with you on a bipartisan basis to find an appropriate response. I’m committed to doing that,” the secretary of state said.

Mr Blinken said “there’s no question we have to look at the appropriate steps to take to deal with, again, what is a profoundly wrong-headed decision”.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that he had applied for arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

Mr Khan is also seeking arrest warrants for three Hamas officials – Yahya Sinwar, its leader in Gaza, Mohammed Deif, the commander of its Qassam Brigades military wing, and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of its political bureau.


US President Joe Biden said on Monday it was “outrageous” to apply for arrest warrants. There was “no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas”, he added.

Mr Blinken’s remarks echoed the broader pushback in Washington over the court’s decision.

At least two measures imposing sanctions on the ICC had already been introduced in Congress as the court ramped up its inquiry into Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Support on Capitol Hill appears to be coalescing around a bill launched earlier this month by Texas Republican Chip Roy.

The Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act would target ICC officials involved with the case by blocking their entry to the US, revoking any current US visas they hold, and prohibiting them from any property transactions within the country – unless the court ceases its cases against “protected persons of the United States and its allies”.

At least 37 lawmakers in the Republican-led House are now co-sponsoring the legislation, including Elise Stefanik, the chamber’s third highest-ranking Republican.

Ms Stefanik is fresh off a visit to Israel, where she met with Mr Netanyahu, spoke at the Knesset and met with the families of hostages trapped in Gaza.

The court “equivocates a peaceful nation protecting its right to exist with radical terror groups that commit genocide”, she told Legacy Daily in a statement.

Andy Barr of Kentucky, another Republican supporting the bill, said further pursuit of the ICC’s case against Israel must “be met with the full force of our sanctions”.

Less clear, however, is whether Democratic lawmakers will get behind the effort.

The party’s moderate and liberal wings have grappled with Mr Biden’s Israel policy for months, as young progressive voters have pushed the president to more sharply criticise the Netanyahu government’s operations in Gaza.


Ohio’s Greg Landsman, one of a few Democrats who voted last week to reverse Mr Biden’s pause on a weapons shipment to Israel, told Legacy Daily that he hopes Congress will issue a bipartisan rebuke of the ICC “to send the strongest message possible”.

“The decision (to seek arrest warrants)will only further inflame tensions and divisions, embolden anti-Israel conspiracies, and ultimately, it will undermine the credibility of the ICC,” he said in a statement.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson urged Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, to sign a letter on Tuesday inviting Mr Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress.


In March, Mr Schumer called for new elections in Israel but he described the ICC’s case on Monday as “reprehensible”.

Sen Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Legacy Daily that he would have to “carefully” weigh the decision on whether to sanction ICC officials.

Mr Coons said he is discussing taking action with his committee colleagues from both parties.

But some left-wing Democrats have expressed their support for the ICC’s actions.


Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said the court’s allegations are “significant” and the US must support its work as it has done on past occasions, including in the case of Libya.

“The application for arrest warrants is merely the beginning of a judicial process,” she wrote in a statement on Monday.

“The ICC has been a functioning court – it has seen convictions, acquittals, and dismissals, as we would expect from an impartial and non-political judicial body.”

It remains unclear whether any sanction efforts have yet gathered the support needed to advance through either the Republican-led House or the Democrat-controlled Senate.


White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that administration officials were discussing “next steps” with lawmakers.

Watching from across the world in Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that its adversary’s “attitude and willingness to use sanctions methods even against the ICC” was “more than curious”.