International Justice

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Tag Archives: Israel

As Syria Continues To Crumble – The UN Passes Resolutions Against Israel

“French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault this week called the bloodshed in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad is butchering civilians, “a descent into Hell” and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.”

Unfortunately, the Security Council one again failed to act- instead the UN General to passed 6 resolutions targeting Israel.

One of these resolutions includes, the UN calling on Israel to withdraw from Syria’s Golan Height’s, territory that the Tel Aviv regime has occupied since 1967. 37 countries, by an overwhelming majority on November 30, have proposed this resolution.

“The resolution also condemned Israel’s non-compliance to the Security Council Resolution 497 since 1981 until now, describing as null and void Tel Aviv’s decision issued on December 14, 1981 to impose its control over the occupied Golan Heights.”

This resolution stresses that the Geneva Convention of protection of civilian individuals in time of war, apply n the occupied Golan Heights. Not only that, the UNGA also reemphasized that the basic principle of inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force based on the golan-heights-israel1international law and the UN Charter.
Israel regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area, since the regime has used the region to carry out military operations against the Syrian Government.

The resolution were all part of the General Assembly’s “Palestine Day”. While I do not like Israel settling in territories that does not belong to them (especially since they have been trying to seize a lot of surrounding Arab territory for a while now), I do like the fact that they have been against the Syrian Government. The UN Security Council continues to do absolutely nothing about the situation in Syria (when it should be the number 1 priority) and instead they are diverting the attention to other problems.

Anti-Police Protest in Israel Turns Violent

The New York Times reported Sunday that violence broke out in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, after thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets to protest police brutality and discrimination. The uprising mirrors the protests which took place in Ferguson, New York City, and most recently Baltimore, which erupted after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The demonstrations started peacefully—with Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters marching past government offices and shutting down traffic—however, violence erupted when protestors hurled rocks and overturned a police vehicle and clashed with police. Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu’s message to protestors was that “All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances.”

The unrest was triggered by a video that depicts a police officer beating an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform for no apparent reason. Among the demonstrators, two interviewees reported having undergone similar experiences in which they were unjustly beaten by police. The police chief announced that the officer caught on tape beating the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier has been fired. A similar, small-scale demonstration took place in Jerusalem last Thursday, which also ended in violence.

Similar to the sentiment felt by blacks in the United States, an associate professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev reported that “Ethiopian-Israelis perceived themselves, much like blacks in the United States, as subject to “overpolicing,” including racial profiling; being stopped and arrested more often than other, “white,” Israelis; and being treated with a tougher hand.” The Israeli government has responded to the protests, and violence which has resulted, at a much quicker pace than the United States, taking measures in an effort to improve the system. It will be interesting to see what Ethiopian-Israeli protestors can learn from African-American protestors and vice versa, as well as what the Israeli government can learn from the US government and vice versa.

Amnesty International declares Hamas committed war crimes during Gaza War

In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International stated claims to war crimes committed by Hamas during the Gaza War. The focus of these claims is centered around the violence against Israeli and Palestinians through the use of indiscriminate projectiles. In their press release, Amnesty International declares, “Palestinian armed groups displayed a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians.” Due to the nature of the indiscriminate projectiles, many of the rockets launched during the Gaza War did not accurately reach their targets and thus, many civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, were injured and killed.

Although there were killings on both sides of the conflict throughout the entire war due to these rockets, the Palestinian government has tried to lay blame on the Israeli military for these acts of indiscriminate projectile use. Despite these claims, however, Amnesty International’s investigations led to a resounding conclusion that these projectiles were used by both parties in the war. Furthermore, Amnesty International is looking to hold Palestinian conflict groups accountable for other humanitarian law violations including storing supplies and weapons in UN schools and inciting conflict and attacks in civilian-dominated spaces.

In an effort to improve the current political and civilian situations in both Palestine and Israel post-conflict, Amnesty International is calling for both nations to begin cooperating more freely with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Despite similar encouragements in the past and now with this newly released report, both Hamas and the Israeli government have not actively responded nor engaged in meaningful dialogue for resolution with neither the United Nations or the International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court: A Threat Against State Sovereignty

The International Criminal Court holds three different types of jurisdiction including national, territorial and United Nations Security Council referral. In a recent article titled A Crime Against Sovereignty it discusses the territorial jurisdiction held by the ICC in relation to the preliminary investigations being held in Palestine and Afghanistan. Both Afghanistan and Palestine have ratified the Rome statute therefore granting the ICC jurisdiction to crimes committed within their territories or by people from their territories. The Israeli officials have taken an adversarial stance to the ICC’s preliminary investigation being held in Palestine possibly due to the fear that they may be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Furthermore the ICC is also hosting preliminary investigations in Afghanistan which could result in American officials being held responsible for war crimes committed during both the Bush and Obama administrations. The United States has made it clear that the ICC has no authority to prosecute American or Israeli citizens since they have not ratified the Rome Statute. In addition to voicing their opposition to the ICC’s jurisdiction, the United States has also enacted the American Service Members’ Protection Act of 2002  which authorizes the president to use all means necessary to free US and allied military personnel and government officials detained by the ICC. In addition to that, this act also grants severe restrictions on US cooperation with the court. As discussed in the Bosco reading, the Bush administration was very opposed to joining a supranational court stating that “…it’s the right move, not to join a foreign court that could- where our people could be prosecuted.” However Bosco also discusses how US relations with the ICC have improved under the Obama administration. With that said however the United States still remains a non-signatory of the statute and the ICC still faces a large political obstacle if it decides to go after US past and current officials. I remain curious as to how far the ICC’s power will extend. As we have discussed in class, one of the main critiques of the court is that it is very reliable on states’ cooperation and without it the ICC has a very difficult time in achieving its justice goals. I remain hopeful that the United States will cooperate as much as it can with the court and look forward to the ICC’s next move regarding the situation in both Palestine and Afghanistan.

Israel Threatening to Defund ICC in Light of Recent War Crimes Investigations

Since January 16, 2015, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has being pursuing a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed in Gaza, in which Israel allegedly led an offensive involving war crimes that killed 2,300 and left 500,000 without homes. Last month, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that they would demand of their allies in Canada, Australia, and Germany to cease providing funding for the ICC. Since the investigations have begun, Israel has been able to force the head of the UN inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, the military mission launched by Israel in Gaza, to resign. Since then, Israel has been calling on state parties to defund the Court.

These war crimes allegations stem, in part, from attacks on schools and buildings in Gaza that appear to be unrelated to military objectives. Investigations by Human Rights Watch have revealed that during Operation Protective Edge, three Gaza schools were attacked. According to the watchdog, one of those attacks was disproportionate and indiscriminate, while the other two attacks did not seem to fulfill any necessary military objective and were also indiscriminate. An Amnesty International Investigation further revealed attacks by Israel on Gaza buildings, in which it appears that civilians and buildings were deliberately targeted on such a huge scale, and according to Amnesty, were militarily unnecessary actions.

How can the ICC investigate these crimes? As we learned in class, the ICC has jurisdiction when the perpetrator is a national of the state party, when the crimes committed were done so in the territory of the state party, or when the Security Council refers a conflict. Well, back in January, the Palestinian government ratified the Rome Statute, which thus made it a state party. Through territorial jurisdiction, this ratification gave the ICC jurisdiction over possible war crimes committed in East Jerusalem and Gaza.

This call to defund may become significant, especially in light of the fact that the ICC depends upon voluntary contributions in order to function. Some of Israel’s allies, France, Britain, and Germany, are big powers whose loss of funding may have the potential to impact the ability of the Court to deliver justice. Moreover, losing funding could also pose a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the Court, as Israel has called upon member states (122 in total) to defund the Court, justifying this request through claims that the Court is purely political. As of now, these three allies have ignored Israel’s request, though it will be interesting to see what happens as the investigation into these crimes gets deeper.

For more on the story, click here.

Israeli state accused of attacking Palestinian footballers

This isn’t like most articles concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict per say, but I’m particularly interested in the occasions that sport, particularly football, is affected by real world conflicts (in fact, my thesis is on this general topic).  This article details the violent attacks experienced by two Palestinian youth soccer players that were shot repeatedly in the foot and mauled by dogs at a checkpoint, effectively ending their careers.  According to the article’s author, Dave Zirin, this isn’t the first of such attacks on Palestinian players.

While attacks on footballers is sometimes trivialized as fan violence, it is rarely taken to this extent and almost never by state officials.  What’s more, the Palestinian national football team, for a people without an official state, is invaluable to the peoples’ sense of identity (it would actually be really interesting to investigate how they were given the ability to form a team by FIFA in the absence of an official state).  After the recent violence n their team, the Palestinian Football Association’s chairman, Jibril al-Rajoub, demanded “the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee,” adding that several nations, including Jordan, Qatar, and Iran, supported this ban.

FIFA, in its own way, has tried to play a part in peacekeeping, seeking to mediate a committee of both sides’ authorities to make passage across the security checkpoints easier, but the governing body has found both sides at a standoff. Al-Rajoub said, “this is the way the Israelis are behaving and I see no sign that they have recharged their mental batteries.”  FIFA, while being an international governing body, is in these cases often cautious to make direct recommendations to states concerning policy, preferring to stay within the realm of sports.  I guess my question would be whether mediating direct violence such as this is even with FIFA’s jurisdiction and at what point organizations such as the UN should get involved.

In general, getting the Israelis and Palestinians to come to the negotiating table has not been successful, with John Kerry telling the American Jewish Committee that “we’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities.”  The violence enacted upon Palestinian footballers is surely only one symptom of this conflict.  What good can the governing body of a sport do in a peacekeeping situation that is decades old?  What obligation do they have?

On creating new states and/or new governments

This short blog post by Elliot Abrams for the Council on Foreign Relations provides a short opinion on the growing lack of concern of the United States for the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, of which Abrams quotes multiple examples, such as cases of torture and ill treatment and the erroneous conduction of basic law practices, while Kerry continues to advocate for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Abrams ended his blog post with the question “What kind of Palestine is it that the United States is seeking to create?,” which brought to mind the agency that big players in transitional and international justice can have in creating new states.  For example, international justice has often entered into conflict situations perpetrated by dictators and attempted to establish democracies in their stead.  In this case though, since Abrams is arguing that the United States is simply ignoring the issues of Palestinian corruption, it’s a little worrying that US state officials are both arguing for the creation of a Palestinian state and giving no heed to the problems that are occurring even in the peace process stage.

Israel, Palestine, and Peace vs. Justice

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.

Israel announces more settlements in Palestine

In November 2012, the UN General Assembly voted on Palestine being a non-member observer state. Following that (on Friday, November 30), Israel said that it had authorized another 3000 housing units in the occupied West Bank. This was the day after Palestine was recognized by the UN as a non-member observer state.

On Monday, December 3, Amnesty International said that settlement construction was violating human rights and international law.

Ann Harrison (Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director) said concerning the announcement from Israel: ” This announcement sends a strong signal to the world that the current Israeli government has no respect for human rights and international law. Building settlements violates the rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and is prohibited in all circumstances.”

The settlements would be built on Palestinian land, but they are for Jews only. Israeli authorities did not consult the Bedouin communities, and most of the houses in the communities that are to be settled (by Israelis) have demolition orders. Residents have already said that settlers have been attacking/harassing the villagers.

About Palestinian’s Status Upgrade

About Palestinian’s Status Upgrade

Just last week, as the international community was fully expecting, the United Nations voted in favor of Palestine’s status upgrade. As has been talked about at length already, this means that Palestine will almost certainly join the International Criminal Count. Membership in the ICC will guarantee the Palestinian populace an enforcement mechanism for any war crimes and crimes against humanity happening on its soil. Depending largely on who you ask, war crimes might be occurring there nearly every day – the culprit of course being Israel.

So who is in favor of this? If last Thursday’s vote is any indication, Palestine has the support of one hundred and thirty-eight members of the UN assembly – among them: China, Russia, Brazil, and India.

The most expected opponents of the Palestinian’s new status are the United States and Israel. Israel certainly has the most to lose, and the United States’s longstanding disagreements with the ICC (as well as its alliance with Israel) make its position no surprise.

But not all of the UN motion’s opponents are voting on direct bias. In fact, some of its most vocal opponents were the United Kingdom and France. They argued that the presence of an enforcement mechanism like the ICC could ruin peace talks. Nine nations, including Canada and Panama, ended up voting against the motion. Forty-one nations (UK and Germany among them) abstained from the vote.

It should be interesting to see if, when Israel and the United States are no longer in the position to vote, there ends up being any opposition to Palestine becoming an ICC signatory – not because of ties with Israel but rather for fear of disrupting peace talks.

Israel Could Face Palestinian War Crimes Charges

Israel is moving forward with plans for two major settlement projects to build 3,000 homes for Jews in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. According to the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Israeli building plans would make the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel with Jerusalem as a shared capital “almsot inconceivable.” Palestinian officials have warned Israel that their government could pursue war crimes charges if Israel does not stop their plans for construction. “U.N. recognition [of Palestine as a non-member state] could enable the Palestinians to gain access to the International Criminal Court and seek war crimes charges agaisnt Isreal for its construction of settlements on occupied lands.” Israel’s strongest Western allies have taken an intense preference for the side of the Jewish state. Before Israel announced its latest settlement plans, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he wouldn’t turn to the ICC unless Palestine was attacked; on Monday, a senior Abbas aide said that “by continuing these war crimes of settlement activities on our lands and stealing our money, Israel is pushing and forcing us to go to the ICC.” Final approval for projects in various stages of planning was given Tuesday (today).

Another building project called E-1 would build at least 3,500 homes east of Jerusalem, effectively cutting off east Jersualem (the Palestinian’s intended capital) from the West Bank; however, the government has not decided whether to authorize construction for E-1 yet.

A senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi insists that the international community must go further than the recent diplomatic sanctions against Israel and that the European Union must take harsher measures against products from Israeli settlements. “We have to move to concrete steps so Israel knows it has something to lose and will be held accountable, in accordance with international law.” Here, deterrence and disincentives enter the playing field in international law in order to try to prevent violence and eventually another case in the Hague.




UN’s “State of Palestine”

Upon the State of Palestine’s recognition as a non-member observer state of the UN, it has earned a set of obligations under the realm of international law, as the Amnesty International article explains. Palestine is now in a position to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as well as other international humanitarian law treaties. This is a crucial opportunity for the pursuit of justice for the local victims of human rights violations in giving them the power to claim their respective rights. In constituting a highly important step in the process of achieving international justice for the war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed by all involved parties in the two year period in Gaza and Southern Israel in 08.

The Israeli government, being one of these parties, is thought to be concerned that Palestinians may use the significant rise of their status to make use of precisely these aforementioned new opportunities. In case of an investigation, upon request by the Palestinians, Israelis must be worried that their practices in the occupied territories will be viewed as violations of international law, arguably even as crimes against humanity. It seems to thereby be a wide concern that several states who have voted against the status change, namely the P5 of the UN Security Council, share the same concern. They are expected, by Amnesty International sources, to put diplomatic pressure on Palestinian authorities to reject mechanisms of accountability for crimes of international law.

Amnesty International also seems to think that the Palestinians should accept the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed since 2002, however a question of whether this would be in the Palestinians best interest could also be raised. In order to ensure that justice for all those affected will one day be achieved is within possibility, I agree that the State of Palestine must accede to the Statute, as well as the relevant treaties. This provides an invaluable chance, in that sense, to provide lawful and just investigation into the alarming amount of international humanitarian law violations that have been reported.

Some believe that the UN move to change the said status could be as an internationally recognized encouragement of the power of recognized Palestinian authorities over that of Hamas. While another concern remains to be the issue of expected change of policies in terms of providing funding for UN initiatives by the Israelis, as well as their known allies such as the United States. Considering their pivotal role in financing most UN projects, including those in Gaza, a similar situation would surely exacerbate the set of international humanitarian circumstances. Hopefully, increased support of Palestine will provide enough leverage to prevent  such problems from occurring and ensuring the affected people of Gaza and Southern Israel, including all those displaced, will receive their earned justice.

With Palestine’s New UN Status, Will the ICC Investigate Israeli Crimes?

As mentioned in an earlier blog post this week, on Thursday the UN General Assembly voted on the PLO’s bid to become a non-member observer state. Over 130 countries voted to upgrade Palestine’s status, with 9 opposed and 41 abstaining – apart from Canada, no major country joined the US and Israel in voting no (UK and Germany abstained). One important result of this vote is that it provides the Palestinians with potential ICC membership. As mentioned in another recent blog post, there have been concerns about the effects of the vote on the peace process, and Israel views the possibility of legal action as a credible threat. In September, Bensouda stated,“if Palestine is able to pass over that (statehood) hurdle, of course, under the General Assembly, then we will revisit what the ICC can do.”

However, ICC prosecutions against Israel do not seem likely – at least in the foreseeable future. Israel is not a signatory to the ICC, and so is unlikely to cooperate with any indictments. Given the United States’ relationship with Israel, it is also unlikely that it would abstain from voting in a UNSC vote and thus allow a UNSC referral to go through. Even if Bensouda was to initiate an investigation under proprio motu powers, the prosecutor may have difficulty determining the territory under which it can exercise jurisdiction, and the requests to investigate can be time-consuming; the Palestinians’ last request was turned down three years after it was submitted (and it was turned down on a matter of jurisdiction, not on merits). Furthermore, under the ICC’s complementarity principle, Israel could argue that its courts are capable of conducting legitimate investigations on their own.

The Palestinians’ UN envoy stated that his government would not immediately join the ICC, but indicated that if it did, it would pursue Israeli settlement policy as a war crime. However, although the Palestinians could invite the ICC prosecutor to investigate the general conflict situation, it cannot dictate which specific crimes the court should choose to examine. As a result, the prosecutor could also investigate crimes committed by Palestinian extremists. Christian Wanewaser, the former president of the ICC’s assembly of states parties stated that this would make it unlikely for the Palestinians to act immediately: “I think they will let this sit for a while. They will just use the threat of resubmitting [a claim] as leverage to stop the settlement policy.”

ICC investigations and potential indictments against Israelis would possibly gain support from many who have accused the court of having an “Africa bias.” However, such actions would likely have many geopolitical ramifications, and would be detrimental to the court’s relationship with the United States. As one Western diplomat with UN experience said, “The best the Palestinians can hope for is Sudan-like situation.” In such a case, indictments would be issued, but indicted parties would likely avoid prosecution. Would other international actors (for example, the 138 who voted in favor of Palestine’s improved status) put more pressure on Israel and the ICC? Or would stigmatization, as is the case with Bashir, be “better than nothing?” (as Akhavan states).

How is the Palestinian UN vote more than symbolic?

Following the General Assembly vote to upgrade Palestine from permanent observer to non-member observer state defined by pre-1967 borders, there are new political ramifications to consider. Though the international community as a whole has furthered the legitimisation of the two state-solution, it has come at the cost of Israel’s political autonomy. Amidst peace negotiations, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s bid for statehood has evoked opposition from Israel:

  • It has threatened to withhold crucial tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA and restrict movements of its officials from the West Bank.
  • On 14 November, a position paper leaked from Israel’s foreign ministry proposed “toppling” Mr Abbas.
  • Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said that if President Abbas continued with the bid, he would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo Accord, under which the PA was established.

While I do think it is a valid objective to override Israel’s sovereignty (not disregarding the fact it sprung from an IGO itself) for the sake of a transitioning Palestine, I can also understand why the U.S. government (see Secretary Clinton) has branded the vote counter-productive in the context of peace vs. justice. Because the Oslo Accords were established in the spirit of a bilateral agreement, the role  of external actors in validating Palestine’s statehood has pre-empted negotiations and has thus antagonised Israel. In terms of practical significance, Israel is now less willing to cooperate in political stability (newly authorised construction of settlements in occupied territory) and has gone as far as saying the vote will “hurt peace”  since “This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens… By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.”

Another matter of interest is how Palestine’s UN-appointed statehood will be interpreted under Article 12 of the Rome Statute which looks to the Secretary General and General Assembly to clarify statehood parameters in contested cases. The ICC prosecutor previously argued that court jurisdiction on PA was contingent upon non-member observer status but Palestine may now re-attempt ICC membership. Consequently, Palestine could pursue legal action for forced displacement of populations; no matter how long this process could take to come into realisation, the issue remains that Israel views the possibility as a credible threat presently, when peace has not been reassured. It seems then that Palestinian sovereignty is a justice imperative but the sequencing is less than ideal for peace.

Palestine and the vote on “non-member observer state” status

Tomorrow, the UN General Assembly will vote on the PLO’s bid to become a non-member observer state. Spain has said it will back Palestine, Germany will not and the UK has stated that they will abstain, unless assurances are made from Palestinian leaders to open negotiations and not turn to the International Criminal Court. France and Russia have already said they both support the bid, while the US strongly opposes it.

Elliot Adams, in his blog “Pressure Points,” however, questions the outcome of this decision. His main argument is that while the actual vote matters very little, it is what Palestine and Israel will do as a result: “Does the PLO, now called “Palestine” at the UN General Assembly, engage in “lawfare” against Israel? Does it rush to the International Criminal Court [ICC] to seek indictments of every Israeli general?” While the Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror has stated on Meet the Press that Israel will wait to see how Palestine acts after the vote and respond accordingly, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke out on the radio today saying that “surprises” are in store for the Palestinians if they proceed with the move.

 Only time will tell what ends up happening but the UN General Assembly vote tomorrow will certain have an important impact on the situation that is to follow.

Israeli Conference on the Process of Restoring Local Justice

Upon the news of the cease fire, which currently seems intact in Gaza according to CNN, I read a relevant article on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in The Jerusalem Post. The situation reads as such: Following the ceasefire, a leading Islamic group in the Gaza Strip declared, in the form of a fatwa, that the violation of the current ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas will be seen as a sin. Meanwhile, Egypt has been conducting complicated talks between the two parties about the status of the ceasefire, and trying to resolve issues such as that of restrictions on the movements of fishermen and farmers in the border area.

Concurrently, as The Jerusalem Post discusses, a conference took place in Israel regarding the process of achieving transitional justice. Unconventionally, the conference officially and openly discussed the need for the suggestion to address the Palestinian refugee issue, as well as the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. The conference, in focusing on these two core issues, presents a model way of thinking about establishing a gradual and well-grounded process of achieving justice on a local level. As is already widely known, while one demands the right of return of millions of refugees, the other requests the acknowledgement of its right to exist, as done in the Oslo Accords, not only as a sovereign state, but also as a Jewish one. However, the open discussion of these matters is, I believe, according to the principles discussed in class, provides the right building blocks into making progress. It is further suggested that situations in other countries that resolved conflict between different ethnic groups must be examined and taken as examples in creating a local plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is also implied by Horovitz, the leader of the program, that the evaluation of other conflict situations suggest the Palestinians could be ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, if Israel recognized the same for Palestinians and “the pain of their defeat in the 1948 war.” Although such reports are open to argument, in their focusing on the root of the problems, as opposed to current discussions such as water or border issues, seems to be a helpful approach and a different, bold outlook on the subject.

These ideas, based on the first program on transitional justice offered by a university in Israel, provide the opportunity to raise the right kind of awareness and educate individuals on the thorough needs of healthy process of restoring justice.

Israel vs. the ICC

Israel vs. the ICC

The Rome Statute may soon have a new signatory.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ is expected to ask the United Nations General Assembly for an upgrade from “entity” to “observer state.” Such an upgrade would allow the Palestinian state to participate in world bodies – among them, the International Criminal Court. So, what does this development mean for Palestinian’s least friendly neighbor, Israel?

At the moment, the ICC has no place involving itself in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. None of the parties involved in the conflict are signatories – so the ICC would need a reference from the United Nations Security Council in order to get involved (So long as America has veto power, the ICC is unlikely to get any such reference, especially not in the Palestinian’s favor). However, if Palestine joins the ICC, the chief prosecutor would have jurisdiction over any war crimes taking place on Palestinian soil.

What kind of crimes might the ICC be interested in? The most likely contender would appear to be aggressive war, if the Israeli occupation could be construed to constitute unreasonable aggression. This could prove to be a formidable issue for Israel and, in turn, the United States. Though U.S. troops are to a certain extent protected by the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (The Hague Invasion Act), the US could be politically compromised if troops of one of its strongest allies were being prosecuted for war crimes. The Obama administration may be forced to take a firm stance on the ICC, and it is worth some concern that our alliance with Israel may push us in the wrong direction.

Accusations of political bias for the ICC

On Tuesday Ocampo, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said that the examination into the alleged Israeli war crimes will be held off until the United Nations rules on Palestinian statehood. Accepting the Hague-based court’s jurisdiction in early 2009, the Palestinian Authority asked Ocampo to launch a investigation against Israel for war crimes. The Palestinian Authority claims the “acts committed on the territory of Palestine” goes as far back as late 2002.  A preliminary probe was opened to see if there was grounds to proceed with an investigation. On Tuesday news came that the ICC can only open an investigation if asked to do so by either the United Nation Security Council or by a recognized state. After this statement the ICC has received harsh criticism from human right groups and the community.   “This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC,” added Marek Marczynski, Head of Amnesty International’s International Justice campaign.

What constitutes a war crime?

Following on our discussion about defining war crimes, here’s an interesting blog post on Opinio Juris in response to an op-ed in the NYT/IHT on whether the Israeli settlements constitute war crimes. This particular conflict prompts many accusations of war crimes being committed by both sides and reveals that defining war crimes still prompts much debate and confusion.

CBC has a useful article on defining war crimes in the Middle East conflict and addresses issues of jurisdiction, civilian casualties, proportionality, and hostages. BBC also does a good run down by posing this simple but loaded question of “what is a war crime?”