Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asked President Joe Biden to maintain sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the International Criminal Court.
In their first phone conversation since Biden took office, Netanyahu made the request as an attempt to stop a potential war crimes investigation into Israel, per Axioson Wednesday.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions last September against ICC officials, including prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, after the court elected to pursue an investigation into the war in Afghanistan, which could implicate U.S. troops and the CIA.
Israeli officials were concerned that removing the sanctions would cause the court’s prosecutor to see it as a sign the U.S. wasn’t opposed to the war crimes investigation. They also worried an investigation could lead to international arrest warrants against Israeli officials and military officers, and could boost BDS campaigns against Israel.
The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel.
ICC judges cleared the way for a potential war crimes investigation last month when they ruled the court had jurisdiction in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel had asked dozens of allies to send a “discreet message” to urge Bensouda not to move forward with the probe.
Israeli diplomats also suggested the Biden administration should keep the sanctions even if opposed to the penalties. That way, the ICC prosecutor could be persuaded not to investigate Afghanistan or the West Bank and Gaza.
Axios said the issue was raised in a recent phone call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli officials.
At a memorial service Thursday for soldiers missing in action, Netanyahu said: “In my phone call with President Biden, we talked about our moral obligation to protect our troops against those who are trying to defame their morality with false claims.”
Israeli officials told Axios the prime minister was hinting at the possible ICC investigations against Israeli and American soldiers.
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