'Hit Job': ICC prosecutor seeking arrest warrants for Israeli leaders is 'absurd,' Netanyahu says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared Tuesday on "Good Morning America."

May 21, 2024, 8:13 AM

LONDON -- A plan by an International Criminal Court prosecutor to apply for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders is "absurd," casting a "terrible stain" on the court, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"We are supplying now nearly half of the water of Gaza. We supplied only 7% before the war. This is completely opposite of what he's saying. He's saying we're starving people?" Netanyahu said on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. "We have supplied half million tons of food and medicine with 20,000 trucks. This guy is out to demonize Israel. He's doing a hit job."

A prosecutor with the ICC on Monday said he would file applications for arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu, alleging that they "bear criminal responsibility" for "war crimes and crimes against humanity" in Gaza.

Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said he would seek warrants for both Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant. Khan laid out a list of allegations against Netanyahu and Gallant, including starvation of civilians, willfully causing great suffering and other "inhumane acts."

"We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy," Khan said in a statement. "These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears "Good Morning America," on May 21, 2024.
ABC News

Netanyahu said on Monday that his country didn't have a "deliberate starvation policy" and the charges detailed by the ICC prosecutor were "fallacious."

"In fact, we have the opposite policy, to allow maximum humanitarian aid to get people out of harm's way," He said, "while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm's way at gun point."

World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain recently said that "full-blown famine" is occurring in northern Gaza.

President Joe Biden called the prosecutor's decision to seek arrest warrants for the Israeli leaders "outrageous."

"And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence -- none -- between Israel and Hamas," Biden said Monday.

The prosecutor's statement came as Israel continued weighing a potential full-scale invasion into Rafah, a southern Gazan city where many Palestinians have sought refuge during Israel's war with Hamas.

"The battle in Rafah is critical. It is not only the remaining [Hamas] battalions there but their escape and supply pipelines," Netanyahu said last week while speaking to troops after taking an aerial tour of the Gaza Strip. "This battle, of which you are an integral part, is a battle that will decide many things in this campaign."

Netanyahu early this month met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for more than two hours in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. Blinken during that meeting "reiterated the United States' clear position on Rafah," Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, said at the time.

U.S. officials have in the weeks since that meeting been in "close communication" with Israeli leaders, letting them know that the U.S. opposes a major military operation in the city, Miller said on Monday.

"We don't think that would be productive to Israel's security either in the short term or the long term," Miller said, "and we think it would have a dramatic impact on the lives of the Palestinian people there and on the ability to get humanitarian assistance in."

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. About 1,200 people were killed on Oct. 7 in the Hamas cross-border attack on southern Israel, according to Israel.

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on Monday asked what would happen when the war was over.

Netanyahu said Hamas would have to be destroyed first, then Israel could "demilitarize" Gaza. After that, there would have to be a civilian administration put in place, he said.

"There is peace and stability and prosperity only through victory," Netanyahu said. "The road to peace goes through victory over Hamas."

ABC News' Joe Simonetti and Shannon K. Crawford contributed to this report.