Netanyahu and Biden
Netanyahu and Biden Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked US President Joe Biden in their first phone call last week to keep the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in place, Barak Ravid of Axios reported on Wednesday, citing Israeli officials.

According to the report, Israeli officials are concerned that removing the US sanctions would hamper Israel's efforts to stop a potential war crimes investigation by the ICC, and that the court's prosecutor could see it as a signal that the US isn't firmly opposed to that investigation.

The ICC ruled last month that Judea, Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem are within its jurisdiction, paving the way for a war crimes probe against Israel.

The US expressed concern over the ruling, particularly about the possibility that the ICC would take steps against Israeli personnel.

According to Ravid, Israel is very concerned that any investigation could lead to international arrest warrants against Israeli officials and military officers and could boost Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns against Israel.

The Trump administration had slapped sanctions on the top prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, and another senior ICC official, Phakiso Mochochoko, after earlier visa bans on Bensouda and others failed to head off the court's war crimes probe into US military personnel in Afghanistan.

The Biden administration has said it plans to “thoroughly review” the sanctions imposed on the ICC by the Trump administration.

According to Axios, Israeli diplomats have made the case to their US counterparts that even if the administration disagrees with the sanctions, it should keep them in place as leverage to persuade Bensouda and her successor, Karim Khan, not to pursue the investigations into Afghanistan or to Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Netanyahu's office declined to comment, as did the White House and State Department.