Bernie Sanders Supports ICC Seeking Arrest Warrants For Israeli Leaders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)voiced support on Tuesday for the International Criminal Court’s recent announcement to seek arrest warrants for Israeli officials and leaders of the militant group Hamas for their role in the ongoing violence in Gaza.

On Oct. 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, taking hundreds hostage and killing 1,200 people, according to Israel. Israel retaliated with its own ongoing offensive that has killed over 35,000 people in Gaza, the Gaza Health Ministry reports, as well as caused famine and displaced most of the population. The United Nations halted aid from entering Rafah on Tuesday after running out of supplies. It has repeatedly accused Israel of blocking aid from entering Gaza, which Israel has denied.

On Monday, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan accused Hamas and Israeli leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of committing war crimes in Gaza. The ICC’s three-judge panel will decide whether the case should move forward to seek arrest warrants, a decision that could take up to two months to make.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Sanders said he agrees with Khan’s belief that Israeli and Hamas leaders are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Israel had the right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorist attack of Oct. 7,” Sanders said. “But Netanyahu and his government do not have the right to wage an all-out war against the children, against the women, against the innocent people of Gaza. And for that, there must be consequences.”

Some U.S. officials have condemned the ICC’s decision to arrest Israeli leaders. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Khan made an “extremely wrongheaded decision,” arguing it would complicate efforts to strike a cease-fire deal.

Shortly after the announcement was made Monday, Biden said the decision was “outrageous,” adding that “whatever these warrants may imply, there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”

The ICC issued an arrest warrant last year for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, specifically charges on his involvement in the abduction of children in Ukraine. The U.S. supported the court’s decision regarding Putin.

Some have argued, according to Sanders, that it’s unfair to compare the democratically elected leader of Israel or the leader of a terrorist organization to Putin, who runs an authoritarian system. But Sanders points out that the political leaders’ actions have not been compared to one another, but rather to international law.

“The ICC prosecutor has looked at what each of these leaders have done, looked at their actions, and then compared those actions to established standards of international law,” Sanders said. “In other words, the ICC is not making some claim of equivalence, as some have charged, but is in fact holding both sides in this current war to the same standard.”

“We cannot only apply international law when it is convenient,” he continued. “The independent panel of international legal experts the ICC appointed to help with this case unanimously agreed with the charges.”