Haaretz: Israel cannot ignore international law

BBSNews 2014-06-25 — By Michael Hess. The headline says it all. The sane people in the world cannot argue with its very clear and simple meaning and it is certainly not a singling out because every country who has signed the UN Charter and various other international legal agreements and treaties must adhere to the same basic premise: Israel Cannot Ignore International Law. The following Haaretz article was published on June 25th, 2014 and appears in block quotes.

Haaretz 2014-06-25 — By Aeyal Gross. “I was the minister of justice. I am a lawyer … But I am against law – international law in particular. Law in general.” This statement was made by Tzipi Livni during Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians in 2007, as leaked in the documents that were obtained and publicized by Al Jazeera two years ago. Livni’s declaration – which came in wake of the Palestinians’ request that the negotiation documents include a reference to international law – illustrates the Israeli attitude regarding international law vis-a-vis the peace process: It would be best for it to just disappear.

For years I have written that basic truth in columns and comments and in conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ‘Israel ignores the rule of law’.

International law can often be subject to different interpretations, be used to give a stamp of approval to various injustices, and be part of the problem rather than the solution. But the Palestinian request to stipulate that international law be one of the bases for negotiations was clearly motivated by the view that, in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the standard interpretation of contemporary international law points mainly in one direction: It prohibits the acquisition of territory by force; recognizes the right of people living under foreign rule to self-determination; and prohibits an occupying country from settling its population in the occupied territory.

International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands.

International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands.

For more than two decades I have written this fact in numerous places around the world, as have many more scholars and journalists more learned than I, and yet this farce continues. What prevents Israel from having to face the consequences of numerous breaches of international law? It’s like there is a protector of some sort who in a perverse way by “protecting” Israel, inadvertently brings terror on the USA because of sheer perfidy. Successive US governments have protected and shielded Israel from laws that it goes to war over in other countries, or levels crippling sanctions that also create more terrorism because those sanctions almost always are borne by the civilian population. The bottom line here that Haaretz obviously recognizes is ‘territory acquired by force of war is inadmissible’. This protects Israel as much as it does Palestinians.

All of this seems to indicate that if international law were being followed, the Palestinians would have the right to freely determine their fate in “occupied Palestinian territory” (that is the official term used to describe the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), Israel would have no sovereign right in that territory, the and the settlements would be deemed illegal and could not serve as a “pretext” for the annexation of territory to Israel. These are the legal positions the International Court of Justice in The Hague adopted when it discussed the issue of the separation barrier, and even though the committee headed by former Supreme Justice Edmond Levy (appointed by the Israeli government to explore the legalization of unauthorized outposts) adopted the opposite position in its findings in 2012, its stance is not accepted by most experts in international law.

There’s that pesky rule of law thing again there that Livni spilled the beans on for Israel. The rogue state, and it is a rogue state with nukes that has not signed the NNPT as Iran has, and Israel regularly attacks its regions neighbors in addition to the Palestinians, the rogue state of Israel also, with great regularity, ignores the rule of law. They obviously believe, as Tzipi Livni confirms, that the law does not apply to them but it most certainly does for instance in the case of Iran…

However, the Israeli position, reflected in that quote from Livni, is not to conduct negotiations in accordance with international law. This might seem to be a reasonable, pragmatic approach that gives preference to discussion and compromise between the parties in order to attain good and viable solutions, without an obligation to adhere meticulously to legal principles. But in reality, in the Israeli-Palestinian context, this is not what abandoning international law really means: What it means is that negotiations shall be conducted in a framework in which there is an imbalance of power between the parties, in a way that affects the situation on the ground and the results.

It is exceedingly obvious that Israel has all the power here. The USA has armed Israel to the teeth, canisters of White Phosphorous used against civilians were picked up by children during Cast Lead I that was broadcast throughout the Arab world (and the wider world live), and Israel is a rogue nuke state fighting against rocks and mortars. The idea of an “existential” threat from Palestinians is completely ludicrous. (Although if they came over the Apartheid Wall in human waves Israel could not kill them all, but I am sure Israel would try in the completely stretched term of “self-defense”.

Thus, the Oslo Accords, for instance, left the power to decide about significant matters in the hands of Israel. They gave the Palestinians certain authorities, but not power. In various areas such as economics and jurisdiction, the accords further entrenched the inequality between occupier and occupied. Thus Israel maintained the authority to try Palestinians that harmed Israel or Israelis, but the Palestinians did not receive similar authority in relation to Israelis who harmed Palestinians.

While Bibi and Likud control Israel’s destiny, and currently they and the illegal colonists are running Israel’s destiny into the ground, the Oslo accords are immaterial, Bibi killed Oslo and brags about it and his feeling that Israel controls America:

“And how did he do it? He recalled how he conditioned his signing of the 1997 Hebron agreement on American consent that there be no withdrawals from “specified military locations,’ and insisted he choose those same locations, such as the whole of the Jordan Valley, for example. ‘Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords,’ he boasts. The real Netanyahu also brags about his knowledge of America: ‘I know what America is. America is something that can be moved easily.'” (Haaretz 2010-07-15)

Above all, the agreements did not expressly prohibit continued settlement activity. Moreover, because it was determined that the settlements would be one of the issues to be agreed upon in a final status accord, Israel was able to use that as an excuse when confronted with claims about the illegality of the settlements, as if the Palestinians’ consent to discuss them later effectively allowed their authorization in the meantime, and nullified the prohibition of such as stated in the Geneva Convention.

From the “facts on the ground” ploy to the so-called “Exchange of Letters” between Bush Junior and Ariel Sharon, Israel has continued to ignore international law and steal Palestinian land and resources. No manner of US collusion with Israel in circumventing international law changes those laws. Bush Junior could no more give away land to Israel than the Man in the Moon.

The same goes for the issue of the quarries in the territories: In 2011, when Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled on the issue of the quarries Israel had built, whose output is transported to Israel for construction purposes – it recognized that there are serious questions about whether construction of new quarries and their use by an occupier is legal. The High Court considered that this could constitute an infringement of the resources of the occupied territory, which the occupying country is prohibited from doing. However, the High Court did ultimately authorize the quarry operations, in part on the basis of the fact that, as set out in the Oslo Accords, the issue of the quarries’ future was to be discussed later by Israel and the Palestinians.

Putting off law is ignoring the rule of law. Period. Full stop. End of story. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. And knowingly breaking the law in civilized countries usually engenders a conspiracy as well. This avenue could easily be explored in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has conspired within and without to steal land and resources from the Palestinians and the world has known this for decades. It’s not like they hide it. For instance the Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon admitted the plan to steal the land of the West Bank and in an unspecified way get rid of the Palestinians, “Danon puts it thusly according to The Guardian’s Chris McGreal: “Danon says bluntly that he wants to take the bulk of West Bank land – Judea and Samaria, as it’s known in Israel – while ridding the Jewish state of responsibility for governing the mass of Palestinians. “Long-term, I am not talking about annexing the Palestinians. My goal is to annex – or ‘apply sovereignty’, as I prefer to call it – to the land in Judea and Samaria with the minimum amount of Palestinians,” he told me. “So, if I am doing the map, yes, I want the majority of the land with the minimum amount of Palestinians.” (BBSNews 2014-05-15).

This conclusion failed to take into consideration interim agreements that said that authority over the quarries was to gradually be transferred to the Palestinians, and that in the absence of final status negotiations, the Oslo Accords were not to authorize permanent Israeli control of them. This instance illustrates how reliance – even if problematic, as in this case – on decisions in negotiations that are not based upon the principles of international law can lead to authorizing dispossession by the party that has the upper hand.

It would be sad if it had not been so obvious for so many years. Israel has no intention of there being a fair and durable peace agreement and Israel has done everything it could over decades to prevent one. Israel wants all of the land and the resources and Israel does not want the Palestinians at all. That is Ethnic Cleansing, and already problematic part of Israel’s history because the rogue state of Israel has yet to atone for the Nakba.

The story of the High Court ruling on the quarries illustrates how, under the cover of a temporary occupation regime operating in the shadow of negotiations, creeping annexation of the West Bank and its resources is occurring, and how the occupying country is exploiting the natural resources of the occupied population. In rejecting a request for a further hearing on this matter, the High Court stressed that “the fact that the activity of the quarries in Area C [under total Israeli control] was explicitly anchored in the interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and left to future negotiations between the parties on a final status agreement, was sufficient to issue a rejection of the petition to the High Court.”

Even Israel’s own High Court ignores the rule of law. In democratic countries a corrupted judiciary is not taken seriously. Israel’s continuing to break international law and heap egregious violations of that law on the Palestinians is a problem for US National Security as the US is rightly seen to be the protector of Israel’s violations and protecting a lawbreaker always brings consequences on those doing the protecting, and the UN is powerless because the protector wields a veto that is always used to shield Israel no matter what the rogue state is up to. Case in point, the recent “kidnapping” that occurred in Palestinian Occupied Territory has resulted in four Palestinian deaths by Israeli authorities, hundreds of arrests, in a rousting of innocent Palestinians that bears resemblance to another regime from a time gone by, and a condemnation of these horrible acts by the UN was prevented by Israel’s protector, the US. (Times of Israel 2014-06-23)

This statement repeatedly ignored the fact that, according to the accords, authority over the quarries was supposed to be gradually transferred to the Palestinians, and that agreements between occupier and occupied cannot supplant international law. In fact, international law does not permit the rights of residents of the occupied territory to be reduced by agreements signed with the occupying country: The Geneva Convention stipulates that people cannot give up the rights it guarantees them even by means of agreements, with the understanding that such agreements between an occupying country and a local occupied population are created under conditions of inequality from the outset.

It’s not just “inequality”, it is also impunity driven by political considerations in the US that possesses the protector of Israel to levy an automatic UN veto when Israel is exacerbating its already aggressive stance by even more egregious aggression that results in deaths, four dead Palestinians so far, as Israel searches for so-called “kidnappers” in a “kidnapping” that the UN cannot even confirm. What we are learning is that the United States prevents Israel from being brought to justice for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. Ironically this political decision is driven by religious zealots who do not care about Jews in the least. According to their version of religion, Jews will convert to Christianity to hasten their “Second Coming(tm)” and for those who refuse to convert they will spend all eternity in the fiery pit. It’s insane and as twisted as the religious contortions that other major religions currently operate under in their quests to destroy the Zionist Entity. The only way that the state of Israel can survive is to follow the rule of law and properly join the community of nations. While the religious claptrap of “Greater Israel” and an invisible skydaddy who hands out land deeds (there is no such being or entity) goes on, and the religious claptrap from the United States where “born-again” evangelical Christians holds sway in the government, and the Muslims cherry pick Islam to make actions on Israel, there can be no just and viable peace under very clear international law that all signatories to those laws are supposed to follow and in many cases that very customary international law also affects countries that hold themselves above the law. Shockingly, while in the United States it is denied that there is a religious war being forwarded by US foreign policy in the Middle East there does seem to be some evidence that George W. Bush had Israel firmly in mind when making policy in the region:

“In 1844, George Bush, a professor of Hebrew at New York University and the cousin of an ancestor of the Presidents Bush, published a book titled The Valley of Vision; or, The Dry Bones of Israel Revived. In it he denounced “the thralldom and oppression which has so long ground them (the Jews) to the dust,” and called for ‘elevating’ the Jews “to a rank of honorable repute among the nations of the earth” by allowing restoring the Jews to the land of Israel where the bulk would be converted to Christianity. This, according to Bush, would benefit not only the Jews, but all of mankind, forming a ‘link of communication” between humanity and God. “It will blaze in notoriety…”. ‘It will flash a splendid demonstration upon all kindreds and tongues of the truth.'” (Wikipedia accessed 2014-06-25)

What can we learn from this about the relationship between the peace process and international law? It appears that without a commitment to those directives that are supposed to apply to the occupied territory – at the basis of which is the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, the illegality of the settlements and Israel’s lack of legitimate claim of sovereignty – peace negotiations become a place in which it possible, when they are dragged out for years, for facts (like the separation barrier, the settlements, the quarries, and more) to be established on the ground, while the negotiations themselves and the Oslo Accords serve as an excuse to avoid respecting Palestinian rights.

The solution is very easy. The Arab Peace Initiative (the Saudi Plan) offers Israel everything it ever claimed to want; peace, security and full recognition. Israel has refused except for a brief moment under Ehud Olmert to even acknowledge this plan that has been on a shelf for longer than a decade. The Saudi Plan itself puts the lie to rest that Arab countries all want to destroy Israel and “kill Jews”, the plan gives Israel everything it ever wanted and all Israel has to do is follow international law. That really does not seem so much to ask but given that an extremist religion rules in the US under various forms of “Christian Zionism”, and the Israeli’s are enamored with an idea that a nonexistent invisible skydaddy gave them some land, and extreme Islam dreams of world “caliphates”, the religious claptrap that clouds the law from all sides must be sidelined for there ever to be a viable and just peace under international law. Currently religion is the undertone to every decision from the US, to Israel and the Muslim world and that link must be severed by all sides or peace is impossible since the religious based decisions are based on myth and fantasy. The Israelis should be more than happy with the 78% of historic Palestine that they already have gotten, and leave the Palestinians alone with their paltry leftovers of 22%. (Arab Peace Initiative), (Remember these digits: 78-22)

International law is not a panacea, but in the present situation, and considering the present balance of power, adherence to the Palestinians’ rights as derived from it as a basis for any agreement – which the Palestinians demanded and Livni refused – sounds much more reasonable. So, even if in theory, negotiations can lead to good practical agreements on both sides, without close adherence to the law (as in the case of territorial exchanges, for instance), in light of the context and after many years of experience – if we want to keep the “peace process” from once more becoming a cover for exploitation and dispossession, the rights granted to the Palestinians by international law should be immediately implemented, without being subordinated to negotiations colored by an imbalance of power.

As long as the United States and Israel are under the thrall of extremist religion and myth in the same ways that they rightly accuse Muslim terror groups of being, there is simply no way for international law to prevail. In a sane world, the rule of law would trump religious nonsense based upon myths and fantasy, but in many ways, this is not a sane world. And even in modernity, the United States is just as susceptible to cherry-picking religion for political gain as is Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

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Michael Hess

Michael Hess

I started writing and editing BBSNews in 1990. Before the 'web, back in the Bulletin Board System (BBS) days. My pursuit of factual and reality based information informs my worldview. The ever evolving BBSNews contains New Mexico news, South Florida news and features, national and international news, politics, space, foreign policy and in particular; news and facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have a long background in technical engineering, I hold several patents including on Disaster Recovery based on work after Hurricane Katrina and I am dedicated to finally seeing the rule of law properly and across the board evenly applied and enforced in the Middle East, particularly with respect to the state of Palestine. See our About Us page for more details.