Arrest warrants for both sides are long overdue

John Hanscombe
May 22 2024 - 12:00pm

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The warning light comes on over the western Mediterranean.

A sudden loss of hydraulic pressure requires urgent attention. There's no choice but to put down at a Spanish airfield.

And there, among the firetrucks and ambulances assembled to meet the stricken aircraft, are several police vehicles and a squad of heavily armed officers whose job is to take the Israeli prime minister into custody.

It's speculative fiction, of course, but not entirely impossible should the International Criminal Court issue the arrest warrants for war crimes sought by its chief prosecutor Karim Khan.

Spain is a member of the ICC and would be obliged to arrest Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister Yoav Gallant if they set foot on Spanish soil. So would 123 other countries which have also signed up to the ICC, including Australia.

If the warrants are granted, Netanyahu and Gallant will, like Vladimir Putin, who's also on the ICC's wanted list, have their travel options severely curtailed. They'd want to be certain their aircraft were in perfect working order.

WATCH: The court’s prosecutor has sought arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and three Hamas leaders Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The ICC's also going after three Hamas leaders for war crimes committed on October 7. Two of them are holed up in Gaza, the other in Qatar, which is not a member of the ICC.

Suddenly, the warring sides find themselves on a bizarre unity ticket. Both are bleating hysterically about the ICC prosecutor's move against them.

Netanyahu says he rejects "with disgust The Hague prosecutor's comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas". He called Karim Khan one of the great anti-Semites of modern times. Hamas decries the ICC's "attempts ... to equate the victim with the executioner".

Both sides are wrong. Both sound like perpetrators claiming victimhood. "Look what you made me do." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Khan simply claims both sides have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hamas with its murderous October 7 rampage and the massacres and sexual violence that came with it. Israel with its attacks on the civilian population and its use of starvation as a weapon of war.

The Israel and Palestine flags behind a barbed wire fence. Picture Shutterstock
The Israel and Palestine flags behind a barbed wire fence. Picture Shutterstock

Chances are none of the five people named in the warrant applications will ever face the international court.

Two of the Hamas people sought are somewhere in the rubble that was once Gaza; the other bloke's safely sequestered in Qatar. The two Israelis are safely at home in Israel, which isn't a signatory to the ICC.

But the damage to Israel's international prestige will be immense if its leader is unable to present himself on the international stage and joins the rogues gallery of despots, tyrants and terrorists in the ICC's sights.

The howls of indignation will be loud in coming days. They will drown out the other voices, especially those in Israel, which welcome the ICC move. Voices like B'tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territory.

"The international community is signalling to Israel that it can no longer maintain its policy of violence, killing and destruction without accountability," it said in a statement on its website. "Likewise, the request for arrest warrants against Hamas leaders for the crimes of October 7 is important and draws a red line where harm to civilians is concerned."

That red line has been too long in coming.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Should the Hamas and Israeli leadership both face war crimes proceedings? Should Australia as an ICC signatory do more to call out war crimes in the Gaza war? Email us:

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THEY SAID IT: "Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows." - Martin Luther King

YOU SAID IT: Remember the Claytons commercial? These days it feels like we're having the Labor government you have when you're not having a Labor government.

Lee writes: "I believe Albanese came with one great idea - the Voice. However, Australia disagreed with this idea. The next big one he needs is to tax big business and miners better than they currently do so those who are struggling can be better supported. Unfortunately Pontiac Pete will be able to convince a gullible public that this will increase everyday prices and impact negatively on them."

"You said it," writes Scott. "No vision from any politicians beyond the next election. Terrible really. We'll never get another opera house or harbour bridge that can be useful for generations."

Suzanne writes: "Labor has definitely lost its way. Even promises made before the last election have been dropped. From pushing more gas mines, ignoring good whistleblower legislation, not pushing for real climate action and not freeing Assange, Labor is not a party I could vote for next election."

"You are spot on," writes Margaret. "I especially loved the bit about Albo only being more popular because he has hair! If only we had a government with a bit more vision and conviction to create equality and not leave anyone behind. We need more like David Pocock and Monique Ryan."

John writes: "You are absolutely right about Labor losing its raison d'etre. Its current behaviour after losing the Voice referendum through its incompetence is cowardly and despicable. But - a huge but - could I vote for the Coalition? Absolutely not. Our only hope is a bigger cross bench of Greens and independents who hold the balance of power and force Labor to cross the line and go back to the left side where it belongs. Shame on Albanese with his sob stories about his impoverished upbringing yet now stamping on those who he claimed he once belonged to."

"The current Claytons problem is not Labor's lack of genuine drive," writes Old Donald, who says he's seen it all. "It is the enforced brevity of the term in office before a new election turns virtually everyone towards saving their skins. Until someone has the guts to legislate for a six-year minimum term, nothing of any genuine substance can be entertained. We probably won't see it, John, but if they want to do it properly they'll also allow no surprise early elections. See it through and, as the horrible cliché has it, get the job done."

Jennifer writes: "I fear that those in Labor who'd like to do more (Jason Clare, Jim Chalmers, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, etc) are being held back by Albanese who doesn't want to make waves. He finally made it to PM and he's too afraid of losing that role but he's not up to doing the job as it needs to be done. The AUKUS decision was a shocker. Time for some good succession planning."

In comments too long for here, Bill makes the valid point: "Politics 101 says you have to be elected to do anything, even if it means sitting on your arse once elected. Shorten's ideas on negative gearing were spot on to any practical person without a huge investment portfolio of existing homes, but that idea did not survive a Rupert onslaught. It's tough when you get 90 seconds, only on ABC, to explain the detail of your policy, and Chris Bowen was no help in the campaign."

"As a long time retired union member and Labor supporter, it is painful to watch the same party generations of our family helped establish and support, rapidly turn into a soft conservative pulp where the only interest in self-preservation rather than the nation," writes Gerry. "How can we support unlimited gas sales while climate change is burning and drowning our homes? How can we support a bizarre submarine program and help rebuild the UK and US shipping industry yet we can't support free end-to-end education for our children? This Echidna nailed it politically! We need something other than two-party politics!"

Peter writes: "As a Whitlam-era progressive I am distressed and enraged at how cowardly, bland and vacuous the ALP has become. On issue after issue Albanese has disappointed. The latest budget, cravenly giving us $300 - to be passed straight on to power companies - is a further example of how he and his government have failed the 'Whitlam test'. The question should be 'Is this the right thing to do?' not 'Will this cost votes?'. Of course the ALP faces an electoral challenge, especially faced with the devious and even less principled, moral vacuum that is Dutton. But failing to offer any vision is not what being an ALP leader should be."

John Hanscombe

John Hanscombe

National reporter, Australian Community Media

Four decades in the media, working in print and television. Formerly editor of the South Coast Register and Milton Ulladulla Times. Based on the South Coast of NSW.