UN Upgrade Could Shift Israeli-Arab Conflict to the Courtroom

December 4, 2012 3:39 pm 0 comments

Members of the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations General Assembly celebrate Nov. 29 upon the vote to upgrade Palestinian status to a non-member observer state Nov. 29. Photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Israel and the Palestinians have fought each other on many battlefields and many diplomatic fronts for decades, but the passing of the resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations indicates the next war between the two might take place at a very different venue: courtrooms.

The Nov. 29 resolution—which gave the Palestinians “non-member observer state” recognition—could have far-reaching implications regarding Israel’s legal standing in the world. Palestinians might hope to translate their victory in New York into action at The Hague, the sleepy Dutch city that is home to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Advocate Ido Rosenzweig, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and expert in international humanitarian law, explained to JNS.org that the Palestinian Authority is likely to try gaining statehood recognition in the international courts after a previous attempt failed.

“In such a case the court would have to address the Palestinian Authority’s legal status again in order to determine whether it corresponds with the definitions of statehood,” Rosenzweig wrote in an email.

However, Dr. Allan Gerson—the former legal council to U.S. ambassadors to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick and Vernon Walters, and author of Israel, the West Bank and International Law—argued that Palestinian claims to statehood based on the passing of the resolution were flawed for three chief reasons.

“First, the resolution is not binding because it was not a decision reached by the [UN] Security Council,” he told JNS.org. Secondly, Gerson said that while there have been exceptions to the Security Council rule such as the 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, the 1947 exception was based on the recommendations of a UN committee and received support of all Security Council members. Finally, “in law you need a formula for statehood and the Palestinians do not meet the criteria of authority and control,” he said.

The UN General Assembly passed the resolution over Israel’s objections with 138 members voting yes, 41 abstaining and only nine voting no.

Outside North America and the Czech Republic, most of Israel’s support came from island-nations like Palau and Micronesia in faraway Oceania, where Old Testament stories of Israelites returning to their Promised Land resonate strongly among the fervently Christian locals. Even Israel’s regular allies at the UN like Germany could not risk breaking with their European Union partners and abstained. Meanwhile, the Palestinians were backed by Paris, Beijing and Moscow, in addition to a solid bloc of Islamic states.

After the resolution passed, Israeli officials downplayed its importance. Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor told JNS.org that an automatic majority “has been voting against in the General Assembly for decades, rubber-stamping any Palestinian resolution no matter how ill-advised, ill-conceived, or illogical.” The latest vote was “another sad chapter of that unfortunate legacy,” he said.

“Some of those who voted for this one-sided resolution may have thought that they were advancing peace, but they only placed another obstacle in its path,” Prosor said.

Meanwhile, in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, the crowds where celebrating.

“Now we have a state,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas told jubilant supporters upon his return from New York. “Palestine has accomplished a historic achievement.”

The decision in New York changed nothing on the ground in the Middle East, but Abbas still had reason to rejoice. First, it put his Fatah-led PA back on the international stage. The round of violence between Israel and Hamas that ended two weeks ago boosted the latter’s profile in the Arab world. Arab leaders trying to arrange a ceasefire spoke to the heads of the Islamist group in Gaza while completely ignoring their rival Abbas, still the nominal leader of all the Palestinians. Fatah bet that a successful bid at the UN would prove to the Arab world and its own base of support that it is still relevant.

On the legal front, if the Palestinians attained statehood status in international courts, they could challenge Israel on several grounds. For instance, the PA could ask the ICC to prosecute Israel for war crimes: think Goldstone report—the controversial probe that accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes—but with legal teeth. If the prosecution went ahead with such a probe, its jurisdiction would not be retroactive. In other words, Operation Cast Lead would not be under its scope of investigation, but any future flare-ups between Israel and the Palestinians would be. Israeli settlements in the West Bank would also come under scrutiny, given that international law prohibits states from settling occupied land with their own citizens. If Israelis were found guilty at the end of such proceedings, it could lead to arrest warrants being issued against top officials.

All of this is highly hypothetical and subject to extensive future legal wrangling, but the IDI’s Rosenzweig stressed that the potential for a Palestinian gambit in the international courts is real.

“I think it’s worth mentioning the fact that it’s a bargaining chip due to the stress that such procedures might cause both internally in the Israeli systems and in the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” he told JNS.org.

However, Rosenzweig added that such a course of action might backfire because Palestinians could also be charged with committing war crimes.

Regarding the ICJ, Gerson said that if the Palestinians went to that court asking for statehood recognition, he did not know whether they would pass the statehood threshold—but in his opinion, they would not. Either way, such a course of action on the part of the Palestinians would only lead to conflict rather than peace, according to Gerson.

At the moment, neither Israel nor the Palestinians seem willing to back down. The Palestinians refused to give the U.K. assurances that they would not turn to the international courts to prosecute Israel, and the tone of the speech delivered by Abbas at the UN was hardly conciliatory.

On its end, Israel announced it had approved construction of a new Jewish settlement in E1, a crucial strategic area just east of Jerusalem, the day after the resolution passed. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the decision had been made long ago, but the timing was to “be expected [because of] the UN decision.”

Prosor told JNS.org, “The only state we saw last week was the Palestinian state of denial—denial of reality, denial of the Jewish people’s history, and denial of the only path forward to real statehood, direct negotiations.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.