Analysis: The next stop for Palestinians could be global courts | Reuters

Is “lawfare” the game plan for the Palestinians?

The formal recognition of statehood, even without full U.N. membership, could be enough for the Palestinians to achieve membership at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), where member states have the power to refer for investigation alleged war crimes or crimes against humanity.

With its upgraded status at the U.N., the Palestinians may now seek to apply to the ICC for membership and authority to file war-crimes charges against the Israeli government and its officials.

That threat of so-called “lawfare” has already prevented some Israeli civilian and military leaders from traveling abroad out of fear they’d be arrested as war criminals.

via Analysis: The next stop for Palestinians could be global courts | Reuters.


17 thoughts on “Analysis: The next stop for Palestinians could be global courts | Reuters”

  1. At first blush, it seems that Palestine joining the ICC would be the game changing event that would reshape Palestinian clout in international politics. However, as one considers the pitfalls associated with such a move it becomes less clear whether or not Palestinian membership would have any real or lasting effect. Recognizing that Member States’ governments in conjunction with the Security Council initiate cases in the ICC, I can see these war crime cases becoming quagmires of legal complexity and procedural stalemate. I think the article also makes a valid point that if Palestine goes on the offensive against Israel for war crimes, Palestine is just as likely to be legally attacked by Israel for the exact same thing. I believe Bill’s lecture at the beginning of the semester discussing the relative ineffectiveness of prosecution in international legal entities has great applicability here.

  2. I do not think making Palestine a non-member state at the U.N. is going to be a game changer. However, it is movement in the right direction for Palestine. It gives Palestine more credibility and greater recognition in the international forum. It gives them a slightly larger voice. No, it is not going to drastically change the situations in Israel/Palestine, but usually such events do not occur. Rather, it is a series of small decisions and small events that change society over time. Will Palestine be able to effectively use the International Criminal Court? Most likely not; at least not compared to the ICC’s track record. The ICC was opened in 2002 and only tries individuals – not states. Since 2002, a total of 30 people have been indicted. Only 1 has been convicted, and that was Thomas Lubanga, the Congolese warlord who used child soldiers. He will get 14 years in prison. So, one conviction in 10 years and 29 dismissals. Though the one conviction is a historic step and does signal growing power by the ICC, it does not mean that Palestine or Israel will be vindicated at the international level. But, Palestine seeking redress through the ICC does have value, if nothing else than for the PR. PR that Palestine needs to gain even more global support in order to redress the wrongs committed against it. So in sum, yes, this is a good thing, but it only moves the rock a little bit.

  3. I congratulate Palestine’s success to become a nonmember observer of UN, but as other people have mentioned there is no dramatical or tangible change in the Palestinian and Israel conflict. Yet the Palestinian Authority (PA) is surely in very critical moment of leadership of how to cruise through all of the political games from now on. For example, as the Council on Foreign Relations analyzes, Israel could choose to politically incense the Palestinians in the West Bank by delaying transfer of tax revenues to the PA, increasing already severe restrictions on the Palestinians, and bring about more violence from the PA public as it only increase Israeli control over the land. ( more violent reaction from Palestinians will also destroy the authority of the PA in the international community. Therefore, in order to take all of those possibilities under the PA’s control, carefully planned leadership and political strategy are very essential at this point.

  4. I think the change in status will only be as meaningful as Israel wants to make it. The move by the UN does legitimize Palestinian statehood to an extent, but they still have a ways to go as a people until they’re able to claim actual statehood. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that Palestinians will never achieve independence and a state of their own without Israel’s consent. Since Israel has the upper hand in this conflict as well as United States support, Palestinians have an uphill struggle ahead of them. Prosecuting a legitimate country for war crimes is a challenge in and of itself so even if Palestine manages to gain recognition in the international courts, I doubt they’d make much headway going after Israel for war crimes. Now that Palestinians have gained non-member observer status, they have to be extra cautious about their conduct in the international community if they wish to advance any further. As the status change takes effect it will be interesting to see how the Palestinians alter their approach to dealing with Israel and the international community.

    Here’s some analysis by a writer for the Jerusalem Post about the status change and the ICC:

  5. I think there are some important implications of the new UN recognition of a Palestinian state in Palestine. It shows that most of the world is sympathetic to their plight and wants a two state solution. Having popular support and knowing it is important. However, the most powerful state in the world is still on Israel’s side. I don’t think that the UN recognition will change anything anytime soon, nor do I think that the Palestinian’s access to the ICC will change a lot. In the end, the USA and Israel will call the shots.
    Here’s an article showing how much Israel cares about the UN’s recognition of the state of Palestine.

    1. I agree that some of the reaction to this is overdone and that it doesn’t give Palestine very much sway over Israeli policies. The US will still continue to stand with Israel and try to find a solution. However, the way this vote played out shows how US influence over other countries is limited in this area. Despite the US opposition, very few countries listened (this link lists the 8 other countries that voted no Maybe this won’t give Palestine the ability to do anything at the ICC but it shows that the US isn’t running the entire show. Here is what President Jimmy Carter said about the situation in a recent visit to Jerusalem:
      Even though I may not agree with everything President Carter said, he brings up some good points.

  6. As outsiders looking in, I think many of us are wrong in belittling the significance of the UN recognizing Palestine. As S S Mughal was saying, it will have just as much significance as Israel and Palestine want it to have. Generally, I would agree with the consensus that the acts of the UN and the ICC have little effect to the world. However, in the given situation, where there has been so much illegitimacy, and illegal action taken on both sides. I think that if Palestine takes this to the ICC, and the prosecutor rules in favor of them, they will enforce the ruling even if the prosecutor doesn’t follow through. Israel is concerned and should be. This could very well be a game changer in the conflict there.

  7. This is a big step and achievement for Palestine but Israel is still very powerful and changes will probably not be made in the near future, it will take time if anything happens. The important thing to note is that Palestine is being recognized and becoming more publicly outspoken. Israel should not be extremely concerned because of their standings and allies. Although this is a big step Israel basically is in control of what happens to their political power.
    Who is really can make something happen:

  8. I believe Palestine’s new non-member state status within the UN is far more than symbolic. Palestine, as a recognized state, can sign treaties enabling it to protect its airspace, natural gas fields off the Gaza coast and electromagnetic airwaves. Furthermore, if Palestinian leaders join the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court they can also challenge Israel’s unpunished violations of international law. Israel has both illegal and grave violations of the Geneva Conventions, and thus are war crimes which can be tried.

  9. There is no way Israel will allow the ICC to prosecute its leaders at the request of Palestinians. If anything, this move will bring Israel and Palestine closer to outright war. I do think it’s a smart move on Palestine’s part, though. This is a peaceful step on the surface, so even if Israel objects, they can’t argue with the rest of the General Assembly. Palestine is moving up the ladder step by step. Israel can’t expect to keep them down forever. As soon as Palestinians gain official recognition from enough other states, they will be considered for full membership in the UN. That will really throw a wrench in things. Hopefully, this issue won’t destroy all efforts at holding peace talks ( Israel, I think, needs to adapt to the new reality that is slowly emerging around it. It already has enough enemies; it needs to figure out some way to find new friends or at least alleviate some of the pressures from its enemies.

  10. Palestine being able to get into the ICC has two impacts on the war in Gaza. The first one is if each side complies with the decision of the ICC. It is important to observe if the violence by each side complies with IHL and their protocols of 1977. The second impact is the status of Gaza and the relationship to Israel, which affects the type of violence that Israel can organize. The fundamental principles of the IHL are civilian immunity, distinction between combatants and civilians, necessity (obligation to restrict targets), and human treatment (prohibition of torture). Palestine being able to get into the ICC will protect civilians and will provide the population of Palestine some right that they did not have before. Although, this news may have a positive impact on the war, it may not necessarily have a positive impact on the long-term status of Palestine.

  11. I agree with Dallin in that any move by Palestine to join the ICC and prosecute Israelis for war crimes will only exacerbate the Israeli-Palestine issue. However, the Israelis insist on “honoring” the Oslo Accords, a peace process that is ten years dead, and have been unwilling to make any meaningful movements towards a two-state solution. I cannot help but think that the Israelis are not interested in any sort of forward progress, hoping instead to maintain a status quo that is unacceptable to the Palestinians. As such, I believe it is a good idea for the Palestinians to push for more recognition at the UN, and at the ICC, if only to force the Israeli’s hand.

    Here is an article in the Economist that talks about growing Palestinian unrest:

  12. I think that this may be a good thing. Without a real system in Palestine, and the non-existence of an army, terrorism is one of the only methods Palestine has to fight back against Israel. Also, it holds Israel responsible for international laws they break. The ICC won’t end the use of terrorism done by Palestine, but at least there will an alternative that Palestinians can use to fight back against Israel. A great example of this is the threat of using the ICC when it comes to Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands. Usually, this is meant with acts of terror to try to scare Israel from continuing illegal acts. However, now people are wanting to use the ICC to bring Israel to long term justice without the loss of human life.,7340,L-4315675,00.html

  13. With all these momentous steps being taken by Palestine — and all of these additional steps being newly conceived to help make the Palestinians more autonomous — can I just say that Netanyahu’s announcement this weekend that Israel is planning to build settlements between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adummim is a total insult to human intelligence. I’m becoming more and more convinced with every new press release about “Bibi” that this guy is trying the limits of every measure of human decency. The guy’s just plain mean; and I don’t like him.

    I don’t know how he hopes to engender foreign sympathy for his “cause” when only 9 countries voted against recognizing Palestine as a non-member entity in the UN. Now he’s going so far as to insult our country and our president with stupid settlement announcements. He’s a nut!

  14. With Palestine being recognized by the United Nations, it seems like the two-state solution is a much larger possibility. However, Israel move to expand settlements into the territority of Palestine is a critical move. Not only is this insult, but it might kill all chances of the two-state solution. As Israelis increasingly move into Palestinian territories, the two become harder to seperate. If Palestine were to become a sovreign state, it would create a huge refugee problem. Thus, the Israeli settlements are ending all possibilities of the two-state solution, a solution that Israel claims to prefer. Palestine will be forced to press for a one-state solution of equal rights.–two-state-solution-to-israeli-palestinian-conflict-nearing-doomsday-scenario-critics-say

  15. This is a beginning, not a conclusive end to matters. In fact, Palestine joining the ICC will only make matters worse. According to Aljazeera, “sources in Jerusalem say that, if the Palestinians join the ICC, the Israeli reaction will be harsh, and would include measures like cutting the flow of taxes and customs duties to the Palestinian Authority.” Things will quickly heat up in the Middle East and conflicts with potential arise to draw the international community in the mess.
    That being said, I believe that Palestine receiving recognition from the UN is a major victory for this country. In such turbulent times, only time will really tell what this step will mean.

    Read this article. I highly recommend it.

  16. I have a some issues with both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians. First, Israeli needs to stop the settlement building. Immediately after the Palestinians win observer state status, Israel approves a new settlement in E1, which further obstructs the connection between Bethlehem and the West Bank. The U.S. has been discouraging Israel to build in E1 for over 15 years, and now the Israelis do it, not telling whether it was direct punishment on the Palestinians, but it probably was. Palestinians, on the other hand, need to directly negotiate with the Israelis instead of trying to put it all on the U.N. I don’t think this new observer state status will bring a whole lot of immediate changes, but I think it may lead to some big differences such as Israeli’s being prosecuted by the ICC. I think the most interesting thing is how many states voted in favor of Palestine: only 9 voted against, with 41 abstentions.

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