What Does the Future Hold for U.S.-Israel Relations?

The famously poor personal chemistry between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has had six years to take its toll. With a tense situation in Israel, and a bad deal with Iran on the horizon, relations seem unlikely to improve suddenly. Robert Satloff speculates about the next two years:

On one hand, with midterm elections having produced a more Republican, Israel-friendly (and Netanyahu-admiring) Congress, and with Barack Obama now a lame duck, Jerusalem has reason to think that the worst is now over. Indeed, it may be a good time for the president to decide to avoid head-on collisions with Israel and focus the last quarter of his presidency instead on the long list of common challenges the two countries face. On the other hand, if Obama is a lame duck, he’s also a free bird. With two years remaining in office and no elections left to contest, the president now has the latitude to pursue relations on issues relevant to Israel without regard to the domestic political fallout—or concerns about further riling Bibi. Depending on the path he follows, his party might protest and Hillary Clinton might move more quickly and dramatically to distance herself from the boss she so faithfully served as secretary of state, but lame-duck presidents have legacy on their mind, not payback from party bosses.

Read more at Politico

More about: American-Israeli Affairs, Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu

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