New Labour government to halt ICC delay on Netanyahu arrest decision

The newly elected Labour government in the UK is expected to reverse a bid to delay the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision on whether to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over alleged war crimes in Gaza.

This change in stance follows a series of high-level discussions and signals a shift in the UK’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under Prime Minister Keir Starmer.

Prime Minister Starmer recently engaged in conversations with both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his dialogue with Abbas, Starmer emphasized the Palestinians’ undeniable right to statehood and expressed his concern over the ongoing suffering and loss of life in Gaza.

At the same time, he conveyed to Netanyahu the urgent necessity for a ceasefire in Gaza, highlighting the importance of establishing long-term conditions for a two-state solution, including financial support for the Palestinian Authority.

Labour officials have affirmed that the party acknowledges the ICC’s jurisdiction over Gaza. This contrasts with the position of the previous government, which argued that the ICC lacked jurisdiction over Israeli nationals, citing the Oslo Accords as the basis for their claim.

The prior government had secretly lodged a challenge to the ICC’s jurisdiction, a move that was revealed only recently. The court had given the UK until July 12 to submit a full claim, but it now appears unlikely that the new government will pursue this, potentially lifting the delay on the ICC’s pre-trial ruling regarding arrest warrants.

The ICC had previously determined in 2021 that it possessed jurisdiction over alleged violations of the Rome Statute in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, despite Palestine not being a sovereign state. The UK’s former stance had questioned the ICC’s authority to arrest Israeli citizens, arguing that the Palestinian Authority lacked jurisdiction under the Oslo Accords to transfer such authority to the ICC.

In related developments, Foreign Secretary David Lammy announced plans to review the future funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and reassess the legal advice provided to the previous government regarding UK arms sales to Israel.

The UK is currently among the few countries with holding funding from UNRWA, following allegations that some of its staff may have participated in the October 7 attack on Israel. Although funding was scheduled to resume in May, the Conservative government delayed this pending the outcome of a UN investigation.

Lammy has emphasized his commitment to examining the legal assessments concerning the UK’s arms sales to Israel to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.

He also voiced his concern about the future governance of Gaza, rejecting any role for Hamas, an organization he described as committed to terrorism and not a two-state solution. Lammy acknowledged the challenges facing the Palestinian Authority and stressed the need for concerted efforts with international partners to address these issues.