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Michael Jansen: Israel doesn’t want peace
January 05, 2015
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As Palestinians finalised the paper work for accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel considered retaliating with war crimes lawsuits in the US and elsewhere against senior Palestinian figures.

Such suits would, however, finish off the illusion that Israel is interested in peace and coexistence with the Palestinians.

Israel could never have found a Palestinian leader more dedicated that President Mahmoud Abbas to a negotiated settlement to the 66-year Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict. The godfather of the Oslo Accord of 1993, Abbas was totally committed until last week to negotiations as the solution though Palestinians were subjected to more than two decades of humiliation, colonisation and violence by Israel and the US and Israel.

Abbas’ popular approval rating had fallen to 35 per cent when at last he snapped and, 24 hours after yet another humiliating defeat at the hands of the US, Abbas signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He also announced that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would pursue prosecutions of Israelis responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity during last summer’s assault on Gaza which killed least 1,500 Palestinian civilians, wounded 6,000, and made homeless more than 120,000.

The US had bullied Nigeria into abstaining on a Palestinian UN Security Council resolution demanding the completion in 2016 of negotiations on the emergence of a Palestinian state and an end to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza by the end of 2017.

Abbas had agreed to French amendments to soften the text with the aim of securing the required nine votes in favour out of 15.  Nigeria had agreed to support the resolution until shortly before the vote was taken.

Consequently, the Palestinians thought they would have council approval although the US was certain to use its permanent member veto to defeat the resolution. 

Washington did not want to cast its veto, for fear of incurring the disapproval of the Arab camp which had backed the measure at a time the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, and other Arab countries have been participating in the US-led coalition conducting air operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Washington did not expect Abbas to respond by signing the ICC Statute.  He had been threatening to take such a step since Israel waged its devastating war on Gaza.

Palestine’s application process should be complete in 57 days, allowing the PA to lodge cases for the Gaza war, practicing apartheid in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, colonising occupied territory, and otherwise violating the human, political and civil rights of Palestinians living under Israeli domination.

The ICC investigates charges against individuals whom the court seeks to hold responsible for crimes they allegedly commit. For Israeli politicians and military figures this is a far more threatening and dangerous option than prosecutions of the government for violations of Palestinian rights. The ICC can issue international warrants for the arrest of convicted individuals, preventing them from leaving Israel.

Members of the US Congress are also speaking of retaliation against the PA by cutting $400 million in funding.  Israel could also halt the transfer of a reported $125 million a month in taxes and tarrifs collected on behalf of the PA.

However, the collapse of the PA would not be in the interest of either the US or Israel.  The PA administers Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank and is, in theory, in charge of Gaza although Hamas continues to exercise autho rity because the PA has not done so through the consensus government.

US-trained PA security forces and intelligence agencies collaborate with the Israeli army and intelligence to protect Israel and Israelis from Palestinian attack. Cutting funds to the PA would also harm these collaborative services which swallow up 40 per cent of the PA’s budget.

Israel prefers not to “rule (directly) over another people” for two reasons: the PA provides political cover for Israel’s reign and the international community funds the PA so it can administer Palestinian West Bank enclaves — and, eventually, Gaza. Ending the PA would be costly both politically and financially.

At least one US commentator suggested that Washington could exert pressure on the

ICC to reject Palestinian legal complaints against Israelis. However, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of Gambia — who was elected for a nine year term in 2012 — has vowed to carry out her mandate “without fear or favour, where jurisdiction is established (by signing and ratifying the statute) and will vigorously pursue those — irrespective of status or affiliation — who commit mass crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.

My office’s approach to Palestine will be no different if the court’s jurisdiction is ever triggered over the situation.”  The Palestinians and their friends must do their utmost to ensure that Bensouda adheres to this declaration, published in The Guardian on August 29th, 2014.

The PA’s shift is both strategic and timely.  Elected in 1995 following the death of Yasser Arafat, Abbas stubbornly imposed on the PA the fruitless policy of seeking statehood through negotiations.

While continuing to refuse the option of armed resistance to the Israeli occupation — legal under international law — Abbas has been forced to adopt as his sole option internationalisation with the aim of securing diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state within the lines of 1967. 

He had been toying with this option for several years and in November 2012 won a vote in the UN General Assembly which upgraded Palestinian status from UN “observer” to “non-member state.”

This has enabled Palestine to join 35 international organizations over the past two years, including 17 along with the all-important ICC. The ICC step in the internationalisation of the Palestinian cause has taken place at an auspicious time.  During 2014 Palestine was recognised as a state by Sweden and the parliaments of Ireland, Britain, France and Spain voted for recognition, putting pressure on their governments to follow Sweden’s example.

Europe has grown fed up with Israel’s refusal to settle with the Palestinians and the US failure to secure a deal. France’s vote in favour of the failed Palestinian Council resolution was another show of independence and a sign that the US is losing control of traditional European allies. Finally, international public opinion is growing hostile toward Israel as evidenced by the growth in the West, including the US, of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

Over the past 66 years Palestinians have failed to secure statehood by military means and negotiations. They are now using other peaceful means to transform virtual statehood into an independent land with borders.

If they fail, violence could be their only alternative.  Attacks on Israelis in East Jerusalem and the West Bank by individuals already constitute a “lone wolf intifada” which could be transformed into a full-scale uprising at any time by any provocation.
 
____________________________________________
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict
 
 

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