ICC might launch probe into Is­rael’s il­le­gal set­tle­ments

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - IQBAL JASSAT

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

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