Wednesday, June 19, 2024

House Sanctions of Bibi Arrest Effort Threaten Biden’s Celeb Fundraiser

'A partisan messaging bill was not my intention here but that is where we are...'

(Headline USA) The House passed legislation Tuesday that would sanction the so-called International Criminal Court for requesting arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

The globalist organization, the legitimacy of which is not formally recognized by the United States or Israel, has ties to far-left Hollywood actor George Clooney.

His wife, activist Amal Clooney, was part of the British based group that led the ICC’s prosecution effort, prompting the Batman & Robin star to personally lobby the White House out of concern that his wife might face adverse consequences for her actions, the Washington Post reported.

The House’s 247-155 vote amounted to Congress’s first legislative rebuke of the 22-year-old “war crimes court” since its attempt last month to seek arrest warrants for the leaders of Israel and Hamas while also raising public awareness of its own existence.

The ICC’s move was widely denounced in Washington, creating a rare moment of unity on Israel even as partisan divisions over the country’s war with Hamas intensified.

While the House bill was expected to pass Tuesday, it managed to attract only modest Democratic support, despite an outpouring of outrage at the court’s decision, dulling its chances in the Senate.

Biden initially expressed support for the sanctions, but following pressure from Clooney, who is slated to host a major fundraiser next weekend, he refersed his stance and denounced the measure as overreach.

Both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee acknowledged the bill in question was unlikely to become law and left the door open to further negotiation with the White House. They said it would be better for Congress to be united against the Hague-based court.

“We’re always strongest, particularly on this committee, when we speak with one voice as one nation, in this case to the ICC and to the judges,” GOP Rep. Mike McCaul, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said during House debate. “A partisan messaging bill was not my intention here but that is where we are.”

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller reiterated the administration’s opposition to the sanctions bill based on the concerns of how it might adversely affect the Clooneys and, consequently, Biden’s Hollywood fundraising prospects. Former presidents presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, actress Julia Roberts and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel are also expected to appear at the Los Angeles event.

“We have made clear that while we oppose the decision taken by the prosecutor of the ICC, we don’t think it is appropriate, especially while there are ongoing investigations inside Israel looking at somebody’s very same questions,” Miller said. “And we were willing to work with Congress on what a response might look like, but we don’t support sanctions.”

The House bill would apply sweeping economic sanctions and visa restrictions to individuals and judges associated with the ICC, including their family members.

Democrats labeled the approach as “overly broad,” warning it could ensnare Americans and U.S. companies that do important work with the court.

“This bill would have a chilling effect on the ICC as an institution which could hamper the court’s efforts to prosecute the numerous atrocities that have been perpetrated in many places around the world, from Ukraine to Uganda,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The legislation reprimanding the ICC was just the latest show of support from House Republicans for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that ignited the war. Republicans have held several votes related to Israel in recent months, highlighting divisions among Democrats over support for the U.S. ally.

Congressional leaders have invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress this summer. Many Democrats are expected to boycott the speech.

Both the ICC and the United Nations’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, have begun to investigate allegations that both Israel and Hamas have committed genocide during the seven-month war.

Last month, ICC’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, accused Netanyahu, his defense minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders—Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh—of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the ICC’s move as disgraceful and anti-Semitic. President Joe Biden and members of Congress also lambasted the prosecutor and supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

Israel is not a member of the court, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But the threat of arrest could make it difficult for Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

“Failing to act here in the Congress would make us complicit with the ICC’s illegitimate actions and we must not stay silent,” McCaul said. “We must stand with our allies.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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