Fearing arrest, Netanyahu nixes stopover in Europe

He could have landed in friendly countries such as Hungary but opted instead to reduce the passenger list to lighten the plane.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t stop in Europe on his way to address Congress later this month due to the threat of an arrest warrant being issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Kan News reported Wednesday.

Due to “a lack of preparation,” said the report, his plane, the Wing of Zion, would not be able to fly directly to the U.S. if it was filled to capacity.

The Prime Minister’s Office therefore looked into the possibility of adding a layover in either Hungary or the Czech Republic, where the plane could refuel while Netanyahu held diplomatic meetings before going on to Washington.

At the end, he decided to significantly reduce the number of passengers instead, said the report, enabling the plane to fly nonstop across the Atlantic.

While European countries such as France and Germany said they would honor all ICC orders against Israeli officials, Prague and Budapest announced their opposition when the ICC’s chief prosecutor requested the warrants in May for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as the top leaders of Hamas, for their allegedly commission of war crimes in Gaza.

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Joining Washington and Jerusalem’s denunciation of the request as equating a democratic country with the terrorist organization that attacked it, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff called it “unacceptable.”

This was “not a legal but a political decision” which “discredits the International Criminal Court,” Gergely Gulyas told a press briefing.

The Czechs also called Khan’s decision “appalling and completely unacceptable.”

The three judges examining Khan’s application have yet to decide on the issue, but since such rulings usually take about two months, it is cutting very close to Netanyahu’s trip.

The prime minister is scheduled to speak to both houses of the American legislature on July 24.

When receiving the invitation, he said he was “very moved” by it and appreciated the opportunity “to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us to the representatives of the American people and the entire world.”

The invitation “to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel” was a bipartisan one, signed by Republican leaders House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Still, it is considered a controversial move, with perhaps dozens of legislators, especially in the Democratic party, thinking of boycotting the speech due to their opposition over the way Israel is handling the war.