Benjamin Netanyahu's fears comes true as ICC seeks arrest warrant

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: AP

How times can change.

Thirty years after Shimon Peres reached the pinnacle that is winning the Nobel Peace Prize, his immediate successor as Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, today took a step closer towards the nadir of national leadership - being summoned to The Hague to face war crimes charges.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it seems highly likely that the International Criminal Court will agree to issue the arrest warrants now being sought by the chief prosecutor, although deliberations could take months.

This is something Israel’s longest serving leader has been fearing for weeks. The son of a historian, Mr Netanyahu is all too aware of the stigma attached to what is now facing him.

The charges being sought by the prosecutor are: causing extermination; causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies; and deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.

Mr Netanyahu looks most vulnerable on the issue of aid supplies. The claims made by aid agencies coupled with the fact that the international community has felt the need to conduct air drops and build a pier to help supply Gaza doesn’t look good.

If the arrest warrants are issued then the Israeli PM can be mentioned in the same breath as other defendants like Putin, Gaddafi and Al-Bashir of Sudan.

Almost two thirds of the world’s 195 countries are party to the Rome Statute and therefore members of the ICC.

And while Israel is not among those 124 nations, the alleged crimes were committed in what the ICC calls the State of Palestine, which is a signatory.

That gives the court jurisdiction in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all seized by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967.

No doubt the Israeli establishment will close ranks over this and protest in the strongest possible terms.

People protest against Prime Minister Netanyahu's government and call for the release of hostages held by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 4 Credit: AP

But being a signatory to the Rome Statute obliges 124 countries to fully co-operate with the court. Put simply - if he steps foot in any one of these places, Mr Netanyahu risks being arrested and handed over.

Technically, he’ll even be a risk if he attends the trial he’s already involved in. That’s because the court is in East Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu denies corruption charges.

He’ll no doubt deny the war crimes charges too, if, as expected, they eventually materialise.

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