Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Food Jewish Identity Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    JNS.org – Several Viennese Jews have made a lasting impact on the world. Sigmund Freud’s investigations changed the face of modern psychology. Composer Arnold Schoenberg’s innovations in atonal music changed the face of music. These days, even more Jews — in particular, Israeli Jews — are changing the face of Vienna’s culinary scene with innovations in…the art of the pita. Freudians may find a psychoanalytic motive for the local appeal of the Israeli eateries popping up in the Austrian capital. Walk […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    The two bullet casings are already beginning to rust. Sheikh Nasser Pasha plucks them from the ground. “Look, one is from an AK-47, one from an American M-4.” The casings are strewn on the ground atop a long mound of dirt with a few bits of white sticks on it. It would appear unremarkable if one were walking by it. A closer look, however, reveals the white objects are pieces of human bone: arms, legs, and a single human skull. […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →