Israel Says Peace Will Not Come Through UN; The Next Stop for Palestinians Could Be Global Court
November 30, 2012
Hamas's leader in exile Khaled Meshaal said on Monday Israel must take the first step if it wants a truce in the conflict in Gaza.
UNITED NATIONS - The United States called on the Palestinians and Israelis on Thursday to resume peace talks after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution that implicitly recognised a Palestinian state.
"The United States calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks, without preconditions, on all the issues that divide them and we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts," US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said.
"The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere," she said after voting against the resolution.
November 30, 2012
The U.N. General Assembly's overwhelming vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member state offers little prospect for greater clout in world politics but it could make a difference in the international courts.
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.
"Israelis are afraid of being hauled to The Hague," said Robert Malley, the Middle East program director for the International Crisis Group.
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations in September he specifically accused Israel of committing war crimes.Israeli officials have said the country's armed forces strictly adhere to international law and argue the true aim of Palestinians' accusations is to isolate Israel.
Last spring, the ICC's former chief prosecutor turned down a 2009 Palestinian request for prosecution of Israel's actions in the 2008-2009 Gaza war with Hamas, specifically noting that Palestine was only a U.N. observer entity.
In September, the new ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said a General Assembly vote could make the difference.
"What we have also done is to leave the door open and to say that if this -- if Palestine is able to pass over that (statehood) hurdle, of course, under the General Assembly, then we will revisit what the ICC can do," Bensouda said during a talk in New York.The Hague-based ICC is the one international venue where individuals can be criminally charged. All 117 countries that ratified the Rome Statute, which created the court, are bound to turn over suspects.
The United States and Israel have not joined the Rome Statute, but that would not prevent the Palestinians from pursing cases under the treaty. ICC arrest warrants and rulings carry geopolitical weight even when they can't be enforced. An indictment of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi last year helped mobilize international support for the rebels who opposed him.
Of course, if the Palestinians enter the legal battlefield, they, too, risk being accused and prosecuted in the venues where they'd try to target Israelis.
There is no guarantee for either side that the ICC prosecutor would follow through on charges. The ICC has procedural obstacles that could head off any prosecution there.
Some commentators argue that, like lawyers in any legal fight, both the Palestinians and Israelis have exaggerated the stakes in what's more of a political and public-relations drama.
"The concern that something dramatic would change is overblown," said Rosa Brooks, a professor of international law at Georgetown University who has also served in policy roles at the State and Defense departments.And it's important to remember that the ICC is a political organization as much as a legal one -- cases are initiated by member governments and the U.N. Security Council -- so geopolitical considerations can trump a strictly legal case.
November 30, 2012
A U.N. General Assembly vote on Thursday recognizing a Palestinian state will do nothing to make it a reality, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Israel had fiercely opposed the Palestinian bid to become a "non-member state" at the United Nations, but had been unable to prevent wide international support for the initiative, notably among its European allies.
Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of violating agreements with Israel by going to the U.N. unilaterally."This is a meaningless resolution that won't change anything on the ground. No Palestinian state will arise without an arrangement ensuring the security of Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office shortly before the U.N. vote was to be held.
"Israel will act accordingly," Netanyahu said. "The way to peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah is through direct negotiations without preconditions, not unilateral decisions at the U.N."Peace talks collapsed in 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building on territory Palestinians seek for a state.
The Israeli leader used unusually strong language to denounce a speech to the General Assembly by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - who had singled out an Israeli offensive in Gaza last week in which at least 170 Palestinians were killed. Six Israelis died in rocket fire from Gaza.
Abbas's comments were "hostile and poisonous", and full of "false propaganda", a statement released by Netanyahu's office said. "These are not the words of a man who wants peace."
Israel had mounted an intensive campaign, supported by the United States, to dissuade European governments from backing the Palestinian move in the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly, long sympathetic to the Palestinians.
The vote took place on a date burned into collective memory - the Assembly voted on November 29, 1947 for Resolution 181 to partition British-ruled Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish. Arab rulers rejected it and, after bitter fighting, Israel alone was recognized as a state six months later.
"No matter how many hands are raised against us," Netanyahu said during a visit to a museum in Jerusalem ahead of the U.N. vote, "there is no power on earth that will cause me to compromise on Israel's security."Israel, which has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967, says a Palestinian state must be the product of direct negotiations and a peace deal that imposes security measures and charts borders that pose no danger to Israelis.
Netanyahu, while hinting Israel may seek to retaliate, made no specific mention of punitive measures, in a shift in tone after eight days of fighting around the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu is running for re-election in a January 22 national ballot and has been accused by critics of harming Israel's international standing through his Palestinian policies.
Israeli officials said Israel will wait and see what the Palestinians do after the vote, which will allow them access to the International Criminal Court where they could seek action against Israel for alleged war crimes.
Just two weeks ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the U.N. Assembly's approval of the Palestinian resolution would "elicit an extreme response from us".
Another member of Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, said three years ago that Israeli counter-measures could include annexing some of the 120 settlements in the West Bank.
But in the past week, Israeli officials have retreated from such talk, retrenching after European countries, which had been largely supportive of Israel's November 14-21 Gaza offensive, started showing their backing for Abbas's U.N. move.
Israel is now threatening only one measure: the withholding of $200 million from the monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority's behalf. It says it will cover the PA's debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.
The deduction, equal to two months' worth of Palestinian tax receipts, would be painful for Abbas's cash-strapped government in Ramallah. But it would stop short of a formal suspension of transfers vital to the economy in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has previously frozen payments to the PA during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions, provoking strong international criticism, such as when the U.N. cultural body UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership a year ago.