By Ramona Wadi
A mere two days before the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced an investigation into Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people (as well as those alleged to have been committed by others in the Occupied Palestinian Territories), the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov was updating the Security Council on the futility of UN Resolution 2334 (2016). Israeli settlements, he said, “have expanded significantly, demolitions have accelerated, violence and incitement have continued.”
Not that Mladenov is recommending any means of halting Israel’s encroachment on Palestinian territory, though. His definition of taking “concrete action” was yet another reference to the redundant two-state paradigm in which, according to the UN, “two democratic states, Israel and Palestine” live in peace and security alongside each other.
Faced with the possibility of an ICC investigation with which Israel has already stated it will not cooperate, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is planning to allow Israeli settlers to register Palestinian lands in Area C of the occupied West Bank. The move has prompted Palestinian officials and activists to point out the importance of an ICC investigation into settlement expansion and the myriad of violations it encompasses. If Bennett’s plan is implemented, Israel would be asserting its sovereignty over Area C.
Israel, which is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and has presented its objections to the ICC, continues to act in contempt of international law. In terms of its standing at the UN, despite the countless objections leveled against the organisation for its purported “anti-Israel bias”, Israel knows that it has been awarded the ability to act with perpetual impunity. The possibility of being called out for war crimes by an international judicial system shatters the image which Israel, together with the UN, has strived to perfect for decades. However, there is little chance of this initial step gaining further traction.
Bennett has already accused the ICC of being political rather than judicial in Israel’s regard. Yet, it is Israel which has violated international law in order to support its colonial politics. Its tactics have merely been employed to attack another institution which has shattered the rhetoric of “alleged war crimes” to assert publicly that war crimes have been committed against the Palestinian people.
Israel’s response, of course, is to commit additional violations of international law, proving its confidence in maintaining absolute immunity from any accountability. With the UN providing the backdrop to perpetual ambiguity as regards human rights violations, as well as the ICC’s bureaucratic delays when it comes to investigations, Israel is undoubtedly confident, albeit shaken, that it can survive any complications arising from an ICC probe.
While the UN and the ICC serve different purposes, the UN’s role in protecting and aiding Israel to colonize Palestine must be highlighted. The possibility that Israel escapes unscathed is much greater than the chances of justice for Palestinians, in much the same way that Israel has routinely evaded any form of political responsibility when it comes to diplomacy. There is far too much collusion between Israel and international political actors for the ICC investigation to proceed unhindered, in which case the quest for justice and accountability will once again be relegated to rights organisations which have no political power to implement change.