Saturday, July 10, 2010

Netanyahu's second chance.

There's an interesting editorial in today's Ha'aretz newspaper which seeks to put Obama's description of Netanyahu as "a man of peace" into some kind of context.

They see what has happened as Obama giving Netanyahu "a last chance" to step back from the brink and make peace with the Palestinians.

But don't get confused: Obama's gestures of friendship, which can be partly attributed to the impending congressional elections, do not change anything about the administration's basic policy.

Obama has made it clear that his goal was, and still is, the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. And he expects Netanyahu to help reach that objective, through negotiations with the Palestinians and confidence-building measures aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and improving the economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu must take advantage of the chance he has been given, say yes to Obama, and act seriously and swiftly to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestine.

I personally hold out no hope that Bibi will ever seriously negotiate to create a state of Palestine. Greater Israel is in his DNA, it is simply unthinkable that he will turn away from the things which have defined him his entire life and become serious about ending this conflict.

Indeed, the Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has pointed out that it is Netanyahu who is stopping any resumption of peace talks through his stance on illegal settlement building.

Asked if he expected more U.S. pressure on the Palestinians in the wake of Tuesday's meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, Erekat said: "The whole world and the U.S. administration knows that the one who is blocking the door to direct negotiations is Netanyahu."

"We are sincerely interested in starting direct negotiations, but Netanyahu keeps closing the door in front of us," Erekat told Voice of Palestine Radio. "Netanyahu must decide if he wants peace or settlements. He cannot have both."

So, Obama has been effusive in his praise, but now Netanyahu must show if he is serious when he talks of peace.

I suspect that he is not, that he is simply making noises and promises which he has no intention of keeping.
Netanyahu was careful not to make any statement deviating from the political line of the watchful right wing. He did not say the words "Palestinian state" and focused on warning of the security risk involved in withdrawal and on the demand to change Palestinian textbooks. Once again, it seems that Netanyahu prefers his political partnership with Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya'alon and Eli Yishai to a partnership with the president of the United States.
There was nothing in Netahyanu's statement which led me to believe that he is serious about this at all. When Netanyahu talks about "security risks" all I hear is that, "I would love to do it, but I can't".

Click here for full article.


John R said...

I have been extremely concerned to read today in the Jewish Chronicle that the government is ‘moving towards changing the law to prevent the arrest of visiting Israelis’. The principle of universal jurisdiction that allows for anyone alleged guilty of war crimes to be detained and brought before the International Criminal Court is essential to our democratic society and should not be tampered with to appease a political lobby.

The report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, dated 15th September 2009, stated, inter alia, regarding attacks by Israeli forces on government buildings and persons of the Gaza authorities, including police, that the facts
‘indicate the commission of the grave breach of extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.’

Regarding the illegal use of white phosphorus as a weapon, the report states:
‘the Israeli forces directly and intentionally attacked the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City and the adjacent ambulance depot with white phosphorous shells. The attack caused fires which took a whole day to extinguish and caused panic among the sick and wounded who had to be evacuated. The Mission finds that no warning was given at any point of an imminent strike.’

The report concludes that,
‘From the facts ascertained in all the above cases, the Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility. It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.’

‘To the International Community
The Mission recommends that States Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 start criminal investigations in national courts, using universal jurisdiction, where there is sufficient evidence of the commission of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Where so warranted following investigation, alleged perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with internationally recognised standards of justice.’

‘To the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court
• With reference to the declaration under article 12 (3) received by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC from the Government of Palestine, the Mission considers that accountability for victims and the interests of peace and justice in the region require that the legal determination should be made by the Prosecutor as expeditiously as possible’.

‘In view of the gravity of the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity that it has reported, the Mission recommends that the United Nations Human Rights Council request the United Nations Secretary-General to bring this report to the attention of the United Nations Security Council under Art. 99 of the Charter of the United Nations so that the Security Council may consider action according to the relevant Mission ’s recommendations below’.

‘The Mission further recommends that the United Nations Human Rights Council formally submit this report to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.’

In view of the above grave allegations of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, it would seem inappropriate in the extreme for the government to suggest altering the law on universal jurisdiction in such a manner as to possibly allow anyone alleged guilty of war crime to enter the United Kingdom unrestricted.

Kel said...


I am as outraged as you are over this. If I remember correctly this was brought up by Miliband when it was revealed that an arrest warrant had been issued for Tzipi Livni. Once Labour lost the election I had rather hoped that plan would be shelved.

It's utterly disgraceful that we are now saying that we do not have universal jurisdiction when it comes to war crimes committed by Israelis and no-one else.

I also note that Hague claims the law as it stands is being misused by "political activists". As you rightly point out, the people who have said that war crimes were committed were the UN.

John R said...


Can you use whatever influence you may have to persuade William Hague and his Department that this proposed change to the law would merely serve to protect those Israeli ministers who authorised the killings in Gaza.

Such a move, (that would drive a coach and horses through the Geneva Conventions), would be tantamount to treating both the UN and the ICC with contempt.

There can be no possible justification in changing British legislation in order to allow a foreign state to blatantly breach international law.

I would remind Mr Hague, that Israel is also in gross breach of the human rights provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement that allows it free access to European markets. It is precisely these economic benefits that allow Israel to treat international law and agreements with such disdain.

Without the benefit of European bilateral trade, Israel would have no option but to conform to the demands of the international community and of the United Nations.

Kel said...

I am tempted to write to Hague asking if he is also going to withdraw our universal jurisdiction over any members of Hamas who should ever visit our shores, as they were also named by the United Nations as having committed war crimes.

I'd love to ask him outright why Israeli suspected war criminals are not be held to the same standard as members of Hamas also suspected of these crimes.