Is George Clooney Dictating Biden’s ICC Policy?

Hollywood star reportedly calls the White House to vent on the president for using the word ‘outrageous’ to describe an ICC prosecutor’s call for the arrest of Netanyahu — a move the star seems to fear could entangle his wife Amal.

Alberto Pezzali/Invision/AP, file
George Clooney and his wife Amal Clooney, December 3, 2023, at London. Alberto Pezzali/Invision/AP, file

With George Clooney scheduled next week to headline a Hollywood fundraiser for President Biden, is the commander in chief pulling his punches on the International Criminal Court’s malfeasance? That’s the concern amid reports that the star carpeted Mr. Biden for condemning the ICC, which employs his wife Amal Clooney, over its “outrageous” attempt to arrest Israel’s top leaders as war criminals alongside the terrorists who run Hamas.

Mr. Biden, in our view, is failing to act forcefully enough against the ICC’s moral equivalency. Likening Prime Minister Netanyahu to Hamas’s Yehya Sinwar is like “indicting Churchill and Roosevelt” alongside Göring and Ribbentrop at Nuremberg, France’s Noëlle Lenoir has said. Mr. Clooney’s phone call — and the Biden campaign’s reported fears that the actor might pull out of the fundraiser — suggests a reason for Mr. Biden’s retreat on this head.

The top prosecutor of the ICC — of which neither Israel or America is a member  — on May 20 called for the arrest of Israeli and Hamas leaders for war crimes. Mrs. Clooney soon chimed in with her endorsement, noting that the ICC’s related legal findings had been “unanimous” and that she’d aided the investigation. “I do not accept that any conflict should be beyond the reach of the law,” she crowed, “nor that any perpetrator should be above the law.” 

Mr. Clooney’s call to the White House, the Washington Post reported, was “to express concern about Biden’s denunciation of the arrest warrants” sought by ICC prosecutors. The actor was especially irate, the Post says, over Mr. Biden using the word “outrageous.” As for the idea of “sanctions on the ICC,” the Post adds, that was a non-starter for Mr. Clooney “because his wife might be subject to the penalties.” What? Is she above the law?

In any event, Mr. Clooney’s call caused quite a stir “throughout Biden’s orbit,” the Post reports, prompting fears that the actor would drop out of the June 15 fundraiser. A “star-studded evening in Hollywood with Barack Obama, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and me,” is how Mr. Biden’s campaign website touts the gala. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is also slated to be there, the Post says. As of today’s writing, Mr. Clooney is still planning to attend.

In the remarks that prompted Mr. Clooney’s ire, Mr. Biden explained that, contrary to Mrs. Clooney’s view, “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.” Added Mr. Biden: “We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.” Yet the White House later poured cold water on the idea of sanctions on the ICC, saying they were “not the right answer.” That was presumably music to the Clooneys’s ears. 

The White House did pledge to “work with Congress on other avenues to address” what it called “overreach” by the ICC, the Post reports. So far, though, there hasn’t been much movement on that. Mr. Biden even says he “strongly opposes” the effort in Congress to sanction the ICC for its move against Israel. The House passed that bill on Tuesday, but it is “unlikely to get a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate,” NBC News reports.

Far from being chastened, the chief ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, suggested that critics, like American politicians, could themselves be subject to indictment for backing sanctions on the court. “When individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or Court personnel,” he tweeted, “such threats, even when not acted upon, may also constitute an offence against the administration of justice” He pointed to Article 70 of the ICC’s “Rome Statute.”

That’s a threat that might as well come from a villain in a Hollywood thriller starring Mr. Clooney. Far from pushing back, or calling for Mr. Khan’s removal, Mr. Biden has clammed up. What a contrast with his predecessor, President Trump, who sanctioned the ICC and denied visas for its staff to enter America. That’s the kind of moral clarity needed now from Mr. Biden — even if it might upset Mr. Clooney and his deep-pocketed friends at Hollywood.

The New York Sun

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