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What do the ICC warrants on Israel mean for US policy?

An ICC prosecutor has sought arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders. [Getty]

News this week of an International Criminal Court prosecutor seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders came as welcome news to many seeking justice and an end to Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza. But what does this move mean for the US?

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Joe Biden is facing growing pressure from his base to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with mounting casualties in Gaza, including nearly 36,000 deaths from Israeli airstrikes, most of whom are women and children.

However, beyond his leftwing base, he is facing pressure to continue his strong support of Israel, putting him in the unenviable position of potentially losing support from both sides of his party.

“Biden’s situation just got even more difficult,” Patrick James, professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Southern California, told The New Arab.

“This puts the US in a box. Biden did not want to go on TV and denounce this, but he has to take a huge risk now and enrage his base. This could give Netanyahu a free hand to invade Rafah,” he said.

Indeed, while trying to appeal to the broader electorate, including Republicans and Israel’s leadership, Biden and his administration appear to be abandoning their supporters and some of the key principles that were promised during the 2020 campaign, including the important promise that human rights would be central to US foreign policy.

With Biden refuting expert claims that Israel is committing genocide and with his administration suggesting that the ICC should be sanctioned, it is difficult to see how they can keep their credibility, what remains of it, with their base.

Moreover, some have raised concerns that the administration’s response, which arguably goes against diplomatic norms in using sanctions against an international court, has the potential to cause further regional instability. 

Biden’s response to the ICC prosecutor seeking arrest warrants “threatens the global international order that the US has actively participated in building,” Anwar Mhajne, assistant professor of political science at Stonehill College, told TNA

“This lack of respect for international law is inherently destabilising and can lead to the escalation of conflict, significant migration movements, economic devastation, and the proliferation of violent extremism,” she said.

Domestically, with less than six months until the general election, the US response to the ICC will likely be seen as another reason for Biden‘s base to withdraw support, while there do not appear to be signs that he is gaining support for his foreign policy outside of his base.

“No one should be above the law,” Robert McCaw, government affairs director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told TNA, referring to the arrest warrants.

“This would be a moral failing and a demonstration that they are not centring human rights in their foreign policy,” he added.

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