SPECIAL BRIEFING DAY 228: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemns “deeply unhelpful” ICC decision to seek arrest warrants against Israeli leaders

By May 21 2024, 20:45 Latest News No Comments

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemns “deeply unhelpful” ICC decision to seek arrest warrants against Israeli leaders

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has condemned the “deeply unhelpful” decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to apply for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant as well as Hamas leaders, rejecting the implication of moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

“There is no moral equivalence between a democratic state exercising its lawful right to self-defence and the terrorist group Hamas. It is wrong to conflate and equivocate between those two different entities”, the Prime Minister said. Prime Minister Sunak emphasised that this “will make absolutely no difference in getting a pause in the fighting, getting aid into the region, or indeed the hostages out”.

In a highly controversial move, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan KC accused Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant of crimes against humanity, including “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, [and] deliberately targeting civilians in conflict”. The ICC prosecutor accused Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh of causing extermination, murder, taking hostages, rape and other act of sexual violence, and torture.


Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell said that the “sense of moral equivalence is repugnant”, repeating Israeli cabinet minister Benny Gantz’s statement that “placing the leaders of a country that went into battle to protect its civilians in the same line with bloodthirsty terrorists is moral blindness”.

Mr Mitchell said that issuing warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant alongside the Hamas leaders “smacks of an unworthy, indeed ludicrous, sense of moral equivalence between a murderous, proscribed terrorist organisation and the democratically elected Government of Israel, who are seeking to protect their citizens and recover their 124 remaining hostages”.

The Deputy Foreign Minister reiterated that “we do not think that the ICC has jurisdiction in this case”, and told Parliament that “the fact that the prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants to be issued does not directly impact, for example, on UK licensing decisions but we will continue to monitor developments”.


In Parliament yesterday…

Defence Minister Leo Docherty said that Israel is an “important ally”, adding that “at the heart of this conflict is the fact that if peace is to be achieved, Hamas need to lay down their arms and release the hostages”.

Numerous Conservative MPs condemned the ICC’s controversial move and rejected calls for an arms embargo on Israel:

CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Commons) Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP expressed concerns about the ICC’s decision “not just because of the succour it gives terrorist groups elsewhere around the world, but because of the risks within it for ourselves and our troops as they go about defending our interests around the world”. He pointed to the “false moral equivalence inherent in the ICC’s statement between the actions of sovereign, democratic Israel and the most brutal activities of a terrorist organisation”, noting that “such false moral equivalence is always drawn by the enemies of Israel as a way to delegitimise the Jewish state”.

Former Attorney General Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Ellis KC MP condemned the ICC’s “grotesque overreach”, stating that “the ICC is acting outwith its powers and, sadly, setting itself up as a political court”. He noted: “The statute of Rome, which set up the International Criminal Court, clearly delineated the powers of the Court. The US and the UK have both previously said that the ICC does not have jurisdiction. Under its founding charter, it can only act against a sovereign state that is a signatory. The US, Israel and dozens of other countries are not signatories, and Gaza is not a sovereign state”.

CFI Vice Chair Andrew Percy MP highlighted that Hamas bears responsibility for the ongoing conflict: “It is Hamas who embed themselves in civilian areas, use civilian institutions and put their own people at risk in this conflict. It is Hamas who have committed rapes as a weapon of war. It is Hamas who are still holding innocent civilians hostage. “On the other side”, he added, “we have the democratic, liberal state of Israel with an independent judicial process and a Supreme Court that is respected internationally and that the ICC is supposed to respect”. “Yet there are people in [the House of Commons] who, from day one, have done very little to call out some of the other behaviour and everything to hold Israel to a standard they do not hold others to”, he said.

Conservative MP Tom Hunt said what he finds “disturbing” is the “ICC report talking about an almost exact equivalence between the leaders of Hamas, who carried out the most disgusting, brutal and deliberately targeted attacks on 7 October, and the leaders of – not a few rogue elements within – Israel”. He underlined the importance of having “solid, accurate data”, despite data from the Hamas-led health authority in Gaza being often reported.

Conservative MP James Sunderland underlined the “danger” of the ICC decision implying moral equivalence.

Former Defence Minister Rt. Hon. Tobias Ellwood MP pointed to Iran’s involvement in “arming and training” Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, underlining the need to challenge Iran’s “disruptive proxy influence across the Middle East”. Responding, Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell condemned Iran’s “malign” regional influence.

CFI Vice Chair Andrew Percy MP also raised concerns over calls for an arms embargo, with Defence Minister Leo Docherty confirming that the UK Government will not be changing its policy on defence agreements with Israel in light of the ICC’s announcement.

Responding to CFI Officer Bob Blackman CBE MP, who noted that “Iran controls Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organisations” and asked what assessment the Government has made of “the potential for Iran to launch another attack”, Defence Minister Leo Docherty said that Iran’s “capability and intent” to destabilise the Middle East “through its pernicious use of proxies” remains.

CFI Officer Miriam Cates MP said that Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron was right to say that an arms embargo on Israel “would embolden Hamas and Iran”. She added that “such a move would both harm UK defence interests and disadvantage our own armed forces, who rely on Israeli-made battlefield equipment”, and said it is of “huge strategic interest to Britain and the West that Israel prevails against Hamas and their funders in Iran”.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove warns Britain risks “descending into darkness” if antisemitism keeps rising

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove warned on Tuesday that Britain risks “descending into darkness” if antisemitism continues to rise – calling the UK’s Jewish community the “canary in the coalmine” for the state of British politics.

During a speech at the Jewish community centre JW3 on Tuesday, Gove condemned anti-Israel marches as becoming “increasingly strident, visible, and lurid”, calling out their organisers for failing to prevent the brandishing of antisemitic hate symbols such as “swastikas, Hamas banners, depictions of Jews as exploiters, devils, child-killers”.

“When Jewish people are under threat, all of our freedoms are threatened”, stated the Communities Secretary, calling antisemitism the “common currency of hate” which connects Islamist extremists to those on the far right and far left.

The ‘From the River to the Sea’ chant “envisages the erasure of the Jewish people’s home”, Gove added, before calling out the moderates who attend the protests for standing stand “side by side” those who are “promoting hate”.

On the double standards applied to the Jewish State, Gove quoted the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who called the “delegitimisation and demonisation” of Israel “a prelude to its dismantlement and its destruction”.

Israel is treated “uniquely among nations”, said Gove, adding: “There are no BDS campaigns” for Syria, despite being “guilty of killing more Muslims in living memory than any other”, for China, even with “what is happening in Xinjiang or Hong Kong, or what happened in Tibet”, or Myanmar, given the “persecution of the Rohingya or Karen people”.

In all cases other than Israel, there “were no suggestions” that the actions of a country’s leaders “should necessitate the end of that country’s independent existence”, concluded Gove, urging the House of Lords to pass the Government’s Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill which counters BDS activities by public bodies.

“We must say to every Jewish citizen in this country – your safety is the best guarantee of our security, your freedom to live as you choose the only way we can be certain we remain a land of liberty, your future is our future. We said Never Again. And that is a promise we will never, ever, disavow”, declared the Secretary of State.

Iran’s Supreme Leader announces five days of mourning following death of President Raisi

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced five days of mourning following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash near the mountainous Iran-Azerbaijan border on Sunday.

The wreckage was discovered on Monday morning after a 15-hour search in foggy weather conditions by over 40 search teams.

Seven others were also killed in the crash, including senior officials Seyyed Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, Tehran’s representative to the East Azerbaijan province, and Malek Rahmati, the province’s Governor.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has been appointed as acting President, and Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani named as Foreign Minister by Iran’s cabinet. Presidential elections will take place on 28th June.

Raisi, 63, was known as the “butcher of Tehran” for his role in a committee which executed thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s. He was elected President in 2021, overseeing a bloody crackdown on popular protests and taking a tough stance in nuclear talks with Western nations.

The Hamas terror group said the Iranian leaders “provided valued support to the Palestinian resistance” against Israel, and Hezbollah sent its “deepest condolences” following Raisi’s death, describing him as a “protector of resistance movements”. A statement from Hezbollah said that the group knew Raisi “closely for a long time”, adding that he was “a strong supporter, and a staunch defender of our causes… and a protector of the resistance movements”.

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