Biden says ICC move on arrest warrants for Israeli leaders "outrageous"

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday slammed the International Criminal Court prosecutor's application for arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the move "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." Biden said in a statement.

His top aide Secretary of State Antony Blinken also criticized the move, raising questions over the court's jurisdiction as well as its process in making this application. He added that it could jeopardize negotiations to achieve a hostage deal and a ceasefire.

"Fundamentally, this decision does nothing to help, and could jeopardize, ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement that would get hostages out and surge humanitarian assistance in," Blinken said.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he had requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defence chief and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes.

Khan said in a statement issued after over seven months of war in Gaza that he had reasonable grounds to believe that the five men "bear criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Blinken said Israel was prepared to cooperate with the court and that the prosecutor was scheduled to visit Israel as early as next week, but instead he went on a cable television to announce the charges.

"These and other circumstances call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation," Blinken said.

In 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration accused the ICC of infringing on U.S. national sovereignty when it authorized an investigation into war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The U.S. targeted court staff, including then-prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, with asset freezes and travel bans.

Biden's administration lifted those sanctions in April 2021.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Trevor Hunnicutt and Caitlin Webber; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alistair Bell)