Israel Must Go on the Offensive against the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC), has a staff of 900 people and an annual budget of $160 million. But between its creation in 2002 and 2018 it has seen only nine cases to completion—all involving African countries—of which only two resulted in convictions. At the end of last year, it announced a formal investigation into supposed Israeli war crimes. Manfred Gerstenfeld urges Jerusalem to respond forcefully:

The government could have prepared a strong reaction crafted over many months, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett instead resorted to calling the court “anti-Semitic.” This may well be true, . . . but it is largely irrelevant. Anti-Semitism is not the battleground on which Israel’s political campaign against the ICC should be conducted.

Choosing the Israeli-Palestinian issue over dozens of other cases incomparably more in need of investigation by the ICC was a [purely] political decision. In order to gain relevance, the ICC needs to get away from Africa, and [the chief prosecutor] thought Israel would be a winnable target. The ICC thus defined itself as a political adversary of Israel, if not an enemy.

From a strategic point of view, the ICC should be confronted as an enemy. Israel should focus on vigorously publicizing that the deficiencies of the court grossly exceed its merits. The process of exposure will be much quicker if Israel mobilizes as many allies as possible who have come to a similar conclusion, including the U.S. Negative exposure of the ICC will be much faster than will the court’s investigation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: ICC, International Law, Israel diplomacy

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem