The Seductive Dangers of an Israel-U.S. Defensive Treaty

Last week, the Israeli minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, visited Washington and met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Among the topics they reportedly discussed were normalization between Jerusalem and Riyadh and the possibility of a limited defense treaty between the U.S. and the Jewish state. Jacob Nagel argues that the benefits of such a formal agreement may not be worth the costs. The very existence of such a treaty, he writes, conveys the message that Israel “lacks confidence in its power and capability to defend itself by itself.” And that’s not the only problem:

A hostile president, in the future, could exploit the treaty against Israel, and there are many ways to do so. . . . But the problem is much deeper. NATO’s Article 5 is the highest level of security guarantee that the U.S. can give to its allies. If the U.S., even according to Article 5, will not defend NATO allies if they will launch a preemptive attack, then the U.S. for sure won’t defend anyone else who has a degree of guarantees that falls even below Article 5 levels—like Israel or Saudi Arabia if they will attack Iran, for example.

It is clear that under any defense treaty, Israel will get less than Article 5 guarantees, so presenting such a treaty as giving Israel greater freedom of action against Iran is wrong.

There is also a danger of curtailing Israeli freedom of action in general, especially vis-à-vis Iran, Russia, and China, regardless of what is written in the treaty. A treaty would motivate the U.S. to prevent escalation, in order to prevent a confrontation that would require the U.S. to intervene, which will put a lot of pressure on Israel not to escalate.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law