Karim Khan
Karim KhanREUTERS/Michael Kooren

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan on Sunday justified his decision to request arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, AFP reported.

"It's a precarious moment internationally and if we don't hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto," Khan, who rarely speaks publicly, was quoted as having told the Sunday Times newspaper.

He added that countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia were watching closely as to whether global institutions would seek to uphold international law.

"Are powerful states sincere when they say there's a body of law or is this rules-based system all a nonsense, simply a tool of NATO and a post-colonial world, with no real intention of applying law equally?" Khan asked.

Khan also rejected the notion that he was equating Israel’s leadership with the leadership of Hamas, against whom he is also seeking arrest warrants.

"I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its supreme court is akin to Hamas, of course not," he told the Sunday Times.

"I couldn't be clearer, Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a license to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us," said Khan.

He cited a number of allegations against Israel, including "the fact that water was turned off... that people queuing for food [were] targeted, that people from aid agencies have been killed."

"This is not how war is supposed to be waged. If this is what compliance with international humanitarian law looks like, then the Geneva Conventions serve no purpose," said Khan.

Khan’s announcement of the arrest warrants was condemned by Netanyahu, who said, “Mr. Khan creates a twisted and false moral equivalence between the leaders of Israel and the henchmen of Hamas. This is like creating a moral equivalence after September 11th between President Bush and Osama Bin Laden, or during World War II between FDR and Hitler."

"What a travesty of justice! What a disgrace!" he declared.

US President Joe Biden condemned the ICC’s move, saying in a statement, "The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous. And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also denounced the ICC announcement and said he would “work with President Biden and members on all sides to keep support for Israel strong and unwavering.”