Upon attempting to cross from Jordan to the occupied West Bank on March 21, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s VIP traveling pass was confiscated by Israel’s security services, the Shin Bet. This was in retribution for his meeting with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. According to an unnamed senior Israeli official, the action was “in line with the current relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” Israel’s retaliation against al-Maliki was just the tip of the iceberg.
Having imparted a dose of initial intimidation, Israel has now stated that it will halt economic cooperation with the PA if it continues its cooperation with the ICC over the war crimes investigation. Back in November 2020, the PA had announced it was restoring relations with Israel upon receiving guarantees that the settler-colonial state would commit to past agreements.
The international community had erupted with purported concern over the PA’s decision to cut ties with Israel beforehand, including worries over security coordination. Yet when Israel reneges on its agreements, or embarks upon unilateral decisions to protect its impunity, global leaders step back to watch the spectacle unfold.
With the US back in the lead of international diplomacy, committed to the two-state rhetoric, and fluctuating over what policies to retain from the Trump administration’s legacy, politicizing the ICC’s war crimes investigation is becoming a joint effort between Israel and the US. These attempts risk involving the international community, as the vast majority – though in many ways still partial to Israel – has not been opposed to the ICC investigation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently expressed opposition to Bensouda’s decision to investigate Israeli war crimes, on the grounds that that the ICC’s role constitutes “unilateral judicial actions that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.”
The main point, is how US President Joe Biden sells the political propaganda that ICC investigations will hinder prospects of the two-state compromise, even though it is defunct and the only way forward is one decolonized state.
The two-state paradigm is a political conjecture with historical roots in the 1947 Partition Plan. Investigating war crimes is a process with recourse to justice. As the US edges closer to garnering international consensus, conflating the ICC investigation with the two-state compromise seems to be the only way for Israel to garner sympathy from the international community. Regardless of the fact that Israel has no intention of adopting the two-state politics, it will not oppose its main interlocutor, using the international community’s consensus to thwart a criminal investigation.
Like Israel, the US has remained consistent in opposing the ICC’s investigation, although the Biden administration is mulling lifting the sanctions imposed on the Court’s officials by the Trump administration. The main point, however, is how US President Joe Biden sells the political propaganda that ICC investigations will hinder prospects of the two-state compromise, even though the paradigm is defunct and the only way forward is one decolonized state.
“We firmly oppose and are disappointed by the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of an investigation into the Palestinian situation,” the US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, stated during a press briefing in early March. Price questioned Palestine’s sovereignty as a reason to disqualify the investigations, despite the ICC’s ruling for the purpose of the investigation stating that access to the Rome Statute allows jurisdiction of the court.
Moreover, Price made no mention of how Israel limits the prospects of Palestinian sovereignty, or how the US is opposed to a fully independent and viable Palestinian state, despite the change in presidency. The two-state compromise — endorsed by the US — allows for a bequeathed autonomy over fragmented territory which is still subject to Israeli demands. Annexation annihilates the prospects of a Palestinian state, which makes the ICC investigation imperative, not to mention a benchmark which the international community should adopt in terms of holding Israel accountable to international law.
Blinken’s strategy is to appeal to international diplomacy. With some exceptions, the international community has largely supported the ICC’s forthcoming investigations. Bensouda had declared Israel’s settlement expansion as constituting a war crime, which takes the non-binding UN resolutions on the recurring violation to another level in terms of identifying accountability.
The ICC had declared Israel’s settlement expansion as constituting a war crime, which takes the non-binding UN resolutions on the recurring violation to another level in terms of identifying accountability.
One major omission which the international community has failed to address is the fact that its condemnations of Israel’s settlement expansion has not been on par with the ICC’s designation. On the contrary, the UN has jumped on the bandwagon of praise for the Abraham Accords, which suspended the annexation of Palestinian territory in favor of the Arab states’ normalization of relations with Israel.
While Israel tries to bully the PA into submission, and simultaneously seek ways to protect its top echelons and soldiers from possible ICC indictments, the US’ return to international diplomacy as an ally, rather than a pariah, is well positioned to make the case for both the two-state compromise and annexation, while opposing the ICC investigations.
The two-state compromise, defunct as it is, poses no threat to Israel and is thus compatible with the de-facto annexation process taking place. Political jargon about human rights violations in terms of forced displacement and Palestinian territorial loss is what Israel is accustomed to, and what it expects from the UN and its institutions. After all, the humanitarian program is well-established and has served as a veneer for Israel’s crimes, catering to its collateral damage and enabling Palestinians to survive, rather than thrive.
For decades, the international community has allowed Israel to expand into Palestinian territory while conducting futile negotiations on the side-lines and only holding the PA accountable to agreements. Furthermore, the international community has not governed its relations with Israel based upon adherence to international law and principles, despite many agreements making respect for human rights a condition upon which further negotiations are conducted. As long as no threat was made to the two-state politics, it was business as usual for Israel and the world.
The international community has not governed its relations with Israel based upon adherence to international law and principles.
The US, of course, is well versed in the two-state diplomacy and is now in a position to emerge on the scene again as a proponent, at a time when the paradigm ought to be made completely obsolete and replaced with the process of decolonization.
With the international community still seeking to restart the two-state negotiations, as the Middle East Quartet recently announced, the ICC’s investigation is being marginalized. The split between international diplomacy and justice is becoming more pronounced – it’s business as usual, with Israel in the midst of an unprecedented investigation that will shed light on its colonial violence.
The US is set upon undermining the ICC’s efforts through evoking the two-state compromise. The two-state paradigm allows Palestinians no recourse for land reclamation, especially now that annexation depends upon the international community’s promoting a defunct option. Unfortunately, the PA now also finds itself playing a clearly dual role in persisting with the ICC’s investigations while pleading to the international community to back negotiations based upon a two-state hypothesis. If discourse turns to negotiations rather than justice, the Palestinians will be served a lethal blow.