Analysis from Israel

Earlier, I cited a new poll showing two-thirds of Palestinians reject any two-state solution that entails recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, while the same majority sees a two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward Israel’s eradication. It also showed 72 percent deny Jewish history in Jerusalem, 53 percent support educating schoolchildren to hate Jews, and 73 percent support the Hamas charter’s call for killing Jews behind every “rock and tree.”

But perhaps even scarier than the poll itself was the delusional response of Israeli leaders when briefed on it by pollster Stanley Greenberg and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project, which commissioned it. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli leaders said “they were encouraged by Palestinian support for talks.” Indeed, 65 percent of respondents preferred talks to violence as a tactic for achieving their goals. But what good is that if there’s nothing to talk about – which there isn’t as long as Palestinians deny the Jewish state’s right to exist?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded much more sensible in an interview with author Etgar Keret last month: He said forthrightly the conflict is “not about territory,” but about the Jewish state’s right to exist, and will therefore remain unsolvable until Palestinians recognize “Israel as a Jewish state.” Keret then asked what, if so, could be done to further peace:

Netanyahu told me right away that the practical plan for advancing the peace process is to reiterate this at every opportunity.

“You have to see the effect it has on people,” he said, smiling. “You say it and they just remain slack-jawed.”

Just that day, he said, during a conversation with local politicians, he saw it happening before his eyes. Another writer at the table pointed out that we’ve said it more than once and it hasn’t convinced most countries. Netanyahu nodded and said the Palestinians have been spreading their lies for more than 40 years, and lies that have become so deeply entrenched cannot be uprooted quickly.

 

Netanyahu is dead right: The only way to make progress is for Israel to keep explaining the conflict’s real cause until the world finally internalizes it and begins addressing it. For Palestinians will never accept a Jewish state unless convinced it’s necessary, and the only way to so convince them is for the world to make clear that it won’t support Palestinian statehood absent such acceptance.

For that reason, Netanyahu was also right when he told Bulgaria’s foreign minister a few days later peace would come faster if Europe stopped treating Palestinians “like a spoiled child” and instead began to “tell the Palestinians the truth” about the concessions they will need to make for any agreement – like recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and dropping their demand to resettle Palestinian refugees in Israel – instead of only spelling out the concessions it wants Israel to make. For again, as long as the international community refuses to say otherwise, Palestinian will keep thinking they can secure Israel’s retreat from the territories without having to give up their quest for its destruction.

The problem is even Netanyahu himself rarely follows his own advice. Instead, he and other Israelis leaders endlessly declare the Palestinians really want peace, and thereby allow the world to maintain this fiction. Indeed, had Israel not actively assisted the Palestinians in spreading this lie, it never would have “become so deeply entrenched.”

Nobody will defend Israel’s interests if Israel’s own leaders don’t. Thus, until they start telling the truth, consistently and unanimously, the world will keep upholding the convenient fiction that peace is achievable if only Israel would concede a little bit more. And peace itself will remain an unattainable dream.

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The International Criminal Court’s fundamental flaw

In my last column, I noted in passing that the International Criminal Court’s blatant anti-Israel bias is merely a symptom of a more fundamental flaw. That isn’t self-evident; court supporters would doubtless argue, just as many people do about the United Nations, that while the court’s anti-Israel bias is regrettable, it’s an isolated flaw that doesn’t outweigh the benefit of ending impunity for atrocities.

What convinced me both that the ICC is unredeemable and that the impunity problem has a better solution was actually a book by one of the court’s ardent supporters—Philippe Sands, a law professor and international lawyer who has worked on ICC cases. In East West Street, Sands traces the development of two key concepts in international law—crimes against humanity and genocide—to their respective culminations in the Nuremberg Trials of 1945 and the Genocide Convention of 1948. But for me, the real eye-opener was his description of the international wrangling that preceded the Nuremberg Trials.

Nuremberg is sometimes derided as victor’s justice. And in one sense, it obviously was: Four of the victors of World War II—America, Britain, Russia and France—decided to put senior officials of their vanquished foe on trial. But what was striking about Nuremberg was the massive degree of international concord required to hold those trials. Lawyers representing several very different legal systems and several very different systems of government nevertheless had to agree on every word and even every comma in the indictments. And since those lawyers were acting on their governments’ behalf, political approval by all four governments was also needed.

In contrast, the ICC needs no international buy-in at all to pursue a case. Granted, its prosecutors and judges come from many different countries, but they represent neither their home governments nor their home legal systems. Politically, they represent nobody but themselves. Legally, they represent one particular interpretation of international law—an interpretation popular with academics and “human rights” organizations, but less so with national governments.

At first glance, both of the above may sound like pluses. Prosecutorial and judicial independence are generally good things, whereas many governments and legal systems leave much to be desired when it comes to protecting human rights.

But the ICC’s version of prosecutorial and judicial independence is very different from the version found in most democracies because the latter is not completely unconstrained. In democracies, prosecutors and judges are constrained first of all by democratically enacted legislation, and usually by democratically enacted constitutions as well. They’re also constrained by the fact that they, too, are citizens of their country, and therefore share concerns important to most of their countrymen—for instance, national self-defense—but unimportant to judges and prosecutors from other countries (which those at the ICC almost always will be).

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