Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt newspaper

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Criminals… but!

Arab media outlets and social media space were confused over how to react after the International Criminal Court Prosecutor requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, and other officials.

This confusion was not limited to the media and social platforms. It could also be seen in the political sphere. The request issued by ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan created upheaval within all parties, despite their divergent aspirations and expectations.

In the Arab world, everyone was waiting for the ICC to prove that it was “credible” by issuing an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, though they doubted it would happen. Hamas was particularly eager to see this step so that it could declare a judicial and international victory. However, arrest warrants were issued for both Netanyahu and Sinwar.

Meanwhile, in the West, specifically in the United States, some members of Congress were threatening the ICC and pressuring it not to issue an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, who has raged against his Israeli rivals, and even the American president himself, like a bull.

What happened is that the prosecutor equated Netanyahu with Sinwar, and the leader of Hamas' Qassam Brigades, Mohammed Deif, as well as the head of Hamas' political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

The prosecutor charged both Israeli officials and Hamas officials, asserting that he had reasonable grounds to believe they had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity since October 7th and 8th, 2023.

With these charges, the prosecutor portrayed Israeli and Hamas officials as criminals. Many share the prosecutor's conviction. However, charging both sides in equal measure undercuts the judicial process before it could make progress.

Charging all parties meant that none of them would accept the implementation of the decision. No one will enthusiastically push for the arrest of one side while abandoning the other. Hamas will not eagerly demand the arrest of Netanyahu, who is also not concerned with arresting Hamas leaders; he would rather eliminate them.

The West will not pressure anyone to hand over Hamas leaders, as no one can arrest Netanyahu now either. We saw how former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir traveled despite the warrants for his arrest.

The story does not end here. The question now is: How has this accusation opened doors and opportunities for President Putin, who is said to be pursued by the International Criminal Court? Will the Europeans, for instance, treat Netanyahu differently than they have treated President Putin following his war in Ukraine?

I am not saying that the ICC's decision is politicized, though it might be. However, the court has now fallen into the clutches of politics and politicians. The matter will not be assessed from a legal perspective. All parties will do all that they can to dilute the legal dimension, both Arab and Western, specifically the Americans. Accordingly, they are criminals... but!

And so, the prosecutor's request has complicated the crisis further and may lead to escalation. The war in Gaza is not driven by a strategy but by the pursuit of survival. Netanyahu wants to survive politically, Sinwar is trying to save his life, and Haniyeh wants to maintain Hamas' rule over Gaza.