Israel, Palestine, and Peace vs. Justice
February 16, 2014
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Secretary Kerry is currently in the middle of a massive push to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution. Since July, when the current round of peace talks was announced, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, along with their chief negotiators, have been carefully working through core issues of the conflict such as refugees, borders, Jerusalem, security, and mutual recognition. In the coming weeks, Secretary Kerry will likely present Israelis and Palestinians with a so-called Framework Agreement, outlining potential solutions to these issues, along with parameters for moving forward with negotiations. Included in this agreement, as well as in a future final status agreement, will be a stipulation for an “end of claims.” This effectively means that, with the signing of a peace deal, Palestinians will agree not to pursue aims outside of the settlement negotiated, including legal accountability.
This agreement to an “end of claims” has important and interesting implications for international justice and for the Peace vs. Justice debate. The number one Palestinian demand since 1967 has been an end to the occupation– indeed, when Palestinians have spoken of bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court, it is in the context of ending occupation, and not necessarily out of a desire for accountability. Legal accountability, for them, seems to be a means to an end. Additionally, 60% of Palestinians and Israelis have expressed support for a two-state solution should one be reached, which indicates a willingness to live side by side in peace. Both factors indicate a clear favoring of peace above all else. Because Israel is not a state party to the Rome Statute, and the UNSC would not recommend investigation, a future Palestinian state is the only remaining possibility for an international justice process. There must, therefore, be an enormous level of trust between the two parties that if a Palestinian state is created, there will truly be an “end of claims,” and clear consensus that peace is most important. This suggests that a sort of “peace as justice,” might be possible. The fact that we are currently in the middle of negotiations, and issues like dividing Jerusalem and mutual recognition seem far more contentious than the “end of claims” issue, means that whatever agreement is reached, will be perceived as yielding justice for the Palestinians. For those involved in conflict, the definition of justice is not so narrow– when peace is made and demands are met, not much else matters.