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Israel's Smotrich Threatens ICC To Stop Arrest Warrants, Threatens Palestine over Talk of Statehood

April 25, 2024 (EIRNS)—Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich issued a warning today in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threatening to seize Palestinian Authority tax funds, collected by Israel “on behalf” of the PA, unless the Palestinians a) cease trying to be recognized as a state and b) end the pursuit of international arrest warrants against Israelis for the actions in Gaza. Beyond seizing the funds, he suggests that Netanyahu simply annex the West Bank if the Palestinians should refuse to meet such demands.

There has been concern recently around Netanyahu’s circle that the International Criminal Court might issue arrest warrants against Netanyahu and other Israeli political and military leaders for alleged breaches of international law. Smotrich wrote, as reported by the Times of Israel: “As soon as an arrest warrant of any kind is issued by the prosecutor of The Hague Tribunal against an Israeli citizen or soldier as part of the case that the PA is handling against Israel, and/or a unilateral decision is made in the General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state, I will unilaterally and immediately stop the transfer” of funds to the Palestinian Authority, and order the cancellation of the indemnity given to the Israeli cross-fund banks that transfer funds to banks in Judea and Samaria” (that is, the West Bank). Such ICC warrants, he said, would be “a dangerous precedent-setting step that would constitute crossing a red line.”

He demanded of Netanyahu that he “openly and unequivocally announce” that if the PA continues its activities along those lines, “Israel will sever all ties with the Palestinian Authority and bring about its immediate fall and immediately and unilaterally assert its sovereignty” over all the West Bank. “Unilateral measures will be met with unilateral measures,” he declared.

Smotrich further charged that the PA “draws encouragement and legitimacy for its actions from the Biden administration’s turning its back on Israel in legal contexts through the imposition of sanctions on the settlers, and apparently also on the IDF, as well as from the harsh tones of the leaders of European countries against Israel in the context of the war in Gaza.” Only yesterday, the US State Department had denounced as “dangerous and reckless” Smotrich’s reported plans to legalize dozens of currently illegal West Bank settlement outposts.

Last week, Israel’s Channel 12 news had reported that the Israeli government had received indications that ICC arrest warrants might be imminent, and that this triggered an “emergency discussion” among Netanyahu, three ministers, and several government legal experts as to how to fend them off.