Rishi Sunak hits out at ‘deeply unhelpful’ ICC arrest warrant call

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Rishi Sunak hits out at ‘deeply unhelpful’ ICC arrest warrant call

Communal organisation Yachad express disappointment that 'mainstream Jewish community bodies in the UK' were also questioning 'independence and credibility' of the ICC

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signing messages and prayers for Israel during a visit to a school in north London.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signing messages and prayers for Israel during a visit to a school in north London.

Rishi Sunak has hit out at the “deeply unhelpful” actions of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in seeking arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister, along with those for Hamas leaders.

Arguing there is no “moral equivalence” between the two sides in the wake of the October 7 attacks on Israel, the British prime minister insisted that the court’s move would make “absolutely no difference” to wider peace in the Middle East.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, the PM said:”When it comes to the ICC, this is a deeply unhelpful development, which is of course still subject to a final decision.

“There is no moral equivalence between a democratically elected government exercising its lawful right to self defence and the actions of a terrorist group. The actions of the ICC do absolutely nothing to get a pause in the fighting, to get the hostages out or aid into Gaza.”


Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron also said in the Lords: “Of course we respect the independence of the ICC, just as we respect its independence they should respect the independence of politicians not to suddenly lose their voice and lose all their opinions about these things.”

In a statement the Board of Deputies also said the application for arrest warrants was an “entirely unacceptable attempt at moral equivalence between Hamas – responsible for the October 7th mass terror attacks – and Israel.”

The Board claimed the ICC application “appears to absolve Hamas from all responsibility” for the current situation in Gaza.

But in their own statement, advocacy group Yachad expressed disappointment that “mainstream Jewish community bodies in the UK” were questioning the independence and credibility of the ICC.

“The independence of the judiciary is a bedrock principle in democratic societies,” Yachad said.

Labour shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy also defended the court in the Commons on Monday saying it was the “cornerstone” of international law.

“Labour has been clear throughout this conflict that international law must be upheld,” Lammy said in parliament on Monday, after ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan filed applications for the arrests on Monday against Netanyahu, and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar., as well as the commander of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Israel’s defense minister.

On Wednesday, speaking at a Chatham House event Lammy said he and Labour believed in the rules based order, and that in his view politicians should concentrate on attempting to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video-recorded statement.“The outrageous decision by the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, to seek arrest warrants against the democratically elected leaders of Israel is a moral outrage of historic proportions. It will cast an everlasting mark of shame on the international court,” Netanyahu said in a video-recorded statement.

Netanyahu accused Khan of creating a “twisted and false moral equivalence between the leaders of Israel and the henchmen of Hamas. This is like creating a moral equivalence after September 11th between President Bush and Osama Bin Laden, or during World War II between FDR and Hitler.”

U.S. President Joe Biden also lashed out at the prosecutor, rejecting the “outrageous” decision by Khan: “Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. Let me be clear: we reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders.”

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