ICC might launch probe into Israel’s illegal settlements
FOLLOWING the hysterical tantrums of Israel’s right-wing regime on the outcome of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, much has been written and discussed by various commentators about its wider implications.
While the narratives may differ from the official position as enunciated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whereby he lambasted the Obama administration and US Secretary of State John Kerry in particular, a common denominator among analysts being that settlements are illegal and do not enjoy the support of the international community.
Of particular interest is the analysis provided by Vijay Prashad in an article published by The Hindu.
According to Prashad: “The UN resolution – important as it is in itself – is not what Israel fears. What troubles Tel Aviv are the steps that would come after this resolution, particularly from the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
He reminds us that in January 2015, the ICC’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into Israel’s actions during the 2014 bombing of Gaza and into the illegal settlements.
Bensouda has since made it clear she would not move forward to a full criminal investigation without substantial political clarity from the UN Security Council.
“Resolution 2334 produces the political will for such a move by the ICC. With Palestine as a recognised state in the UN as of 2012, and as a member of the ICC since 2014, and with this resolution now in force, the ICC could move in the next few months to a rigorous investigation of Israeli criminality.
“This would threaten the settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but it would also pressure Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in any future criminal bombardment of Gaza. Whether the Palestinian leadership has the courage to insist on this remains to be seen,” explains Prashad.
In 1967, Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – parts of Palestine that had been outside its control. The Security Council passed a series of resolutions (242, 252, 298) in the next decade, asking Israel to withdraw from this land and – in resolution 446 (1979) – to desist from building settlements on the occupied territory. The US, which had already become the shield for Israel, abstained from the major resolutions.
Prashad further explains it was on this occupied territory that it was then assumed – against Israeli opinion – that a Palestinian state would be built. The two-state solution, the international consensus for the Israel-Palestine conflict, is premised on Israeli withdrawal from this land occupied in 1967.
No wonder the UN has periodically returned to censure Israel for its ongoing occupation and – in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – the construction of settlements on occupied land.
Netanyahu’s fiery rebuke is a sign that, as in the past, Israel will dig its heels in and continue expanding settlements without regard for global opinion. However, this public act of defiance and contempt for international conventions hides the deep-seated fear of criminal prosecution. In dealing with this element of criminality, Prashad retraces the period when myth-making was the order of the day.
“The Oslo Accords (1994) put in place the possibility of a Palestinian state, although it did not have an explicit statement to end settlement activity. Israel continues to eat into the potential Palestinian state. Neither does Israel want a two-state solution or a one-state solution.
“This negative approach to the ‘peace process’ means that Israel is committed to a permanent occupation of the Palestinians. It continues to harbour dreams of a Greater Israel (Eretz Yisrael).”
Prashad points out that four years after Oslo, the international community passed the Rome Statute for the establishment of the ICC.
“It was this new development – the ICC – rather than the Oslo Accords that increased the vetoes exercised by the US in the Security Council to protect Israel. The Israeli establishment worried that the ICC would legitimately turn its gaze on issues such as population transfer and war crimes.
“The ICC – under pressure to investigate crimes outside the African continent – could find that Israeli actions provide a legitimate site of inquiry. The vetoes from Washington prevented any legal foundation for ICC action against Israel.”
Israel is acutely aware of Bensouda’s investigators’ visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in October 2016. Though the ICC said this was not part of its preliminary investigation, it is hard to imagine that this is true.
The new Security Council resolution harks back to more radical postures from it in 1979 and 1980 as well as to the International Court of Justice’s 2014 finding that the “apartheid” wall that entraps the West Bank is illegal.
Pressure will mount on Bensouda to take her investigation forward.
Security Council’s Resolution 2334 provides political will for investigation into criminality