Why the International Criminal Court Should Stay Out of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Jan. 14 2021

Last spring, the International Criminal Court (ICC) determined that it has jurisdiction over Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and part of Jerusalem, although Israel is not a party to the Rome Statue that created the court, and although the “state of Palestine,” which has brought the underlying complaint, does not exist. Another ICC report calls for a full investigation of the Jewish state. Nicholas Rostow explains why nothing good will come from these cases, or from the court’s inevitable decision to involve itself further in the prosecution of Israeli leaders and soldiers:

Palestinian statehood and territory are among the most important, undecided questions to be determined by agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If the ICC concludes that it has jurisdiction over Israeli actions, then the court would find itself embroiled in one of today’s longest running and most difficult conflicts. The consequences are not foreseeable, except to say that they will be serious and severe.

If the ICC takes up the question of whether aggression has occurred, it will be looking at high-level government decisions, not simply troops engaged in combat (although getting to the bottom of what exactly happens in battle is no easy task). It also will be making a determination of where Israel’s boundaries lie.

And unlike the U.S., which may also face a spurious ICC investigation, Israel cannot impose severe costs on those who would prosecute its citizens. Moreover, writes Rostow, the underlying premise of the investigation is even more wrongheaded:

In the nearly twenty years of its existence, the ICC has not persuaded the world’s most powerful states to join the Rome Statute. Their position has little to do with their view of accountability or ending cultures of “impunity,” a favorite term in UN circles. Their concern has to do with the inescapable political character of decisions about jurisdiction and a desire to protect themselves from unwanted intrusions into their national affairs.

We must anticipate that the ICC will decide to exercise jurisdiction over actions by Israel and the United States as requested by the Palestinians and the Afghan government, respectively. It is unlikely that Americans will suffer as a result. It is entirely likely, however, that Israel, already subject to constant questioning of its legitimacy as a state, will face even greater difficulty than it does presently to reach peace with the Palestinian Authority. The ICC cannot contribute to the achievement of that goal.

Read more at Justice

More about: ICC, International Law, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia