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Israel has pursued a policy of “creeping annexation of the Palestinian territories through the creation of Jewish settlements.” (New York Times) This past Thursday, the United Nations reported that this practice of “creeping annexation” violates the human rights Palestine, “calling for immediate halt to all settlement activity and the withdrawal of all settlers.” (New York Times)
In a report issued by the Human Rights Council consisting of 47 nations, a panel of investigators said that Israel is “violating international humanitarian law under the fourth Geneva Convention.” (Associated Press). Despite relevant United Nations resolutions declaring Israeli settlements as illegal, the Israeli government has continued settling in territories occupied by Palestine. The settlements are described as “a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” (Associated Press). French Judge, Christine Chanet who headed the panel, stated that Israel did not cooperate with the probe the council ordered in March and described this report as a “kind of weapon for the Palestinians” if they wanted to bring their grievances before the International Criminal Court in Hague. (Associated Press). Similarly, Pakistani Lawyer Asma Janagir, another member of the panel, reiterated the point that the Israeli settlements infringe on the right of the Palestinian people’s to self-determination.
Israel has accused the council of bias in issuing this report and stated that this report is an “unfortunate reminder of that bias.” (Associated Press). “The report did not explicitly call for an economic boycott of the settlements or sanctions against Israel, but Israel said its authors deliberately used language that could serve groups calling for such measures.” (New York Times) Earlier this week, Israel became the first nation to “skip its review of its human rights record by the council without giving a reason.” (Associated Press). Diplomats agreed to postpone the review. This council stated that the deferral would set precedent of how to deal with non-cooperation of nations in the future.
With that being said, I ask you to consider the following questions in preparing your response:
(1) Do you think that Palestine should bring this issue before the ICC? And if so, how do you think the court would rule on the issue of self-determination?
(2) The Israeli foreign ministry stated that “The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions.” “Counterproductive measures — such as the report before us — will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” …Do you agree with this statement, or do you believe that there are other ways to address this issue?
Sources: New York Times , Associated Press
The ultimate international issue is the Israel-Palestine conflict. This ongoing debate between the two nations has far greater implications on a global level then just land disputes. It has historical, cultural and political significance. Palestine may gain leverage in the international community if they bring the case before the ICC. However, I highly doubt the ICC will decide anything and the case may be nothing more than a grand symbolic gesture. This conflict has too much international importance for a panel of judges to decide either way. This is a situation which needs to be decided by the parties themselves. Unfortunately, that seems almost impossible with the “creeping annexation” going on.
The “negotiations without pre-conditions” that the Israeli foreign minister refers to is the removal of these settlements before negotiations commence. I do not agree that this report hampers efforts negotiations. I think its just an example of the global opinion-not counting the U.S of course- that these settlements bring. What needs to occur is good will gestures on both sides of the table and other states to stay out of the conversation. For decades, innocent people have died from both nations. Finger pointing-however tempting- does not solve anything.
In response to the second proposed question, I do not agree with the statement that the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions, and that the report is a counterproductive measure. I feel that the Israeli foreign ministry is looking for an easy way out of the current situation it finds itself in. The report states that: Israel, in spite of a UN resolution declaring the Palestinian settlements illegal, continues to settle there; and could potentially be read as calling for economic boycotts. On top of this, Israel, without reason, became the first nation to “skip its review of its human rights record by the council.” The report is not counterproductive – it is a starting point to have open discussions with Palestine, ones that may have pre-conditions. By saying the report is biased, Israel is not taking account of its actions, something Israel needs to do. Pressure from the UN, or other nations in general, for Israel to make changes and have open discussions with Palestine is a way I think to arrive at a solution.
As for the first proposed question, of whether Palestine should bring the issue to the ICC, and also about how it would rule, the question of statehood seems prominent to me. I noticed in the New York Times article that it said that if a future Palestine state ratified the Rome statute, it could bring the matter to the ICC. Additionally, the Associated Press article noted that in December, Palestine had received de facto U.N. recognition of statehood. To add more confusion, Palestine does not recognize Israel as a state, but Israel does recognize Palestine as a state. I would be very curious to see what the ICC would say in regards to statehood.
As to the issue of self-determination, there is dispute over whether self-determination encompasses a right of territorial integrity. The court may find that self-determination solely means the right to have your own government, speak your own language, and live within your own culture. Whether a solely physical Israeli encroachment could be seen as violating the Palestinian right to self-determination would depend on which opposing view the ICC takes of self determination, if in fact it acquires jurisdiction.
To the first question: I think that the better route for Palestine is to seek an advisory opinion from the ICJ. This way, Palestine will have the leverage that it needs at the bargaining table without making too bold a leap into the international scene by provoking an already trigger-happy Israel. In the event that Palestine takes the case to the ICC, I believe that the United States would inevitably urge the Security Council to adopt resolution that would preclude the ICC’s judgement from having binding effect. In that case, the verdict would be irrelevant.
To the second question: There are certainly alternative ways to negotiate. Israel has stubbornly demanded that Palestine abandon its claims against Israel’s “creeping annexation” before negotiations can be held. This is not the type of position that pangs of trustworthiness. In fact, there is no doubt that the “creeping annexation” is a blatant violation of international law vis a vis Palestine’s sovereignty. Therefore, Palestine should take all peaceful measures available to dissuade Israel from continuing its unlawful encroachment on Palestinian land.