Israel cannot escape all of international law all of the time


United States President Donald Trump’s plan to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flagrantly breaches global law. However it also validates Israel’s recognition that it can not escape all of international law all of the time.

In particular, it shows that the possible reach of the International Crook Court (ICC) represents a danger to Israel in such a way that unenforced UN resolutions do not.

A history of worldwide law violations

Since the development of the Israeli state in 1948, UN resolutions critical of Israel have made numerous calls ranging from the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their houses to condemning Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians.

Trump’s so-called “offer of the century” efforts to reverse such resolutions by legitimising a number of illegal acts, consisting of Israeli annexation of unlawfully occupied Palestinian land and the continued facility of Jewish settlements on Palestinian area.

It stipulates that Jerusalem is the “undistracted” capital of Israel, while Palestine would have limited control over scattered neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. These areas are east and north of the “security barrier”, otherwise referred to as the Israeli-built “separation wall” that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) considered prohibited over 15 years ago.

There are dozens of UN resolutions that reprimand Israel and demand that it reverse its offenses against Palestinians. Yet Israel continues to flagrantly break them and other international legal decisions with no sanction.

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What, then, is making use of international law when it continues to fail Palestinians?

International law as resistance

The lack of any real consequence for Israel’s unlawful actions is not endless. Abhorrent as it is, Trump’s plan makes it tacitly clear that Israel recognises the power of global law, especially when used as a tool of resistance.

The offer contacts Palestine to drop any and all international criminal cases not just against Israelis, however against Americans too.

The fear of the plan’s American and Israeli drafters stems in part from what Palestine has handled to accomplish with the assistance of international law, despite its continued subjugation and oppression by the Israeli state, supported by the United States.

More than 130 states recognised Palestine as a non-member observer state at the United Nations in November2012 Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute of the ICC, after which it requested that the Court investigate criminal offenses dedicated on its territory.

In December 2019, after prolonged considerations regarding the ICC’s jurisdiction over the Palestine scenario (some of which are ongoing), the ICC district attorney ultimately decided that there are reasonable premises to investigate criminal offenses devoted on Palestinian territory.

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Ought to the current case prior to the ICC reach a stage where Israeli officials are indicted and arrest warrants released against them, this would limit the mobility of those authorities as they try to prevent nations where they may be apprehended and transferred to The Hague for trial. They would likewise be named and shamed.

Naturally, the chances of that happening are slim. The ICC does not have its own authorities force to detain individuals, and rather depends on state cooperation to do so.

Global law can not and does not operate in a vacuum – political will and political mobilisation are at when key drivers of and crucial challenges to the “pledge” of worldwide law: justice.

Even if no Israeli official is prosecuted or jailed, an important lesson can be drawn from the ICC case. A worldwide legal procedure is under method and, while it might not cause any definitive outcome, Trump’s offer signals that powerful governments – particularly the United States and Israel – view global criminal law with worry, regardless of their efforts to dismiss it.

The double-edged sword of international law

Global law represses and liberates.

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It stops working to impose UN resolutions, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As a result, it stops working Palestinian victims as it can not offer protection, nor can it guarantee justice, for them. This repeated failure of enforcement undermines the essence of the UN Charter.

But international law is also emancipatory. It played an essential function in decolonisation following the national freedom movements of the 1950 s and 1960 s. It, in addition to state practice, caused Palestine’s acknowledgment as a de facto state by most of the world on that historical November day in 2012.

In the face of powerful stars that blatantly break worldwide law and effort to establish a new truth on the ground through the establishment of unlawful Jewish settlements on stolen land, international law still makes up a crucial platform for Palestinian resistance.

Proof of this can be found in Trump’s strategy as it exposes the long-standing Israeli and American paranoia that organizations such as the ICC will bring them closer to accountability for their repeated flouting of global law.

The views revealed in this post are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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