This past year, history was made with the signing of normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. These have joined Israel’s historic peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, demonstrating yet again that direct negotiations are the only way to achieve peace.
The recent agreements have already served as the foundation for a wide range of practical cooperation in a multitude of fields, including technology, medicine, tourism, trade and investment.
Beyond the practical cooperation, these agreements, which stress the importance of interfaith dialogue, countering radicalization and promoting mutual understanding, have sent a strong message that, through dialogue and outreach, historic prejudices can be overcome and that peace is, in fact, possible.
Peace, we have witnessed yet again, is a choice to be made. Sadly, that is yet a choice to be made by the Palestinian leadership. For decades, their choice has been the perpetuation of a conflict rather than the pursuit of peace.
One of the most recent and striking examples of such an attempt has been the Palestinian appeal to the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian attempt to bring Israel before the Court is an expression of a clear strategic decision to reject direct negotiations and compromise, seeking to capitalize on the anti-Israel automatic majority in the political organs of the United Nations in order to internationalize the conflict and harness judicial organs as part of a political campaign.
The Palestinian leadership has never hidden this strategy. In a New York Times editorial in 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas admitted that his goal was to achieve “internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.”
For the Palestinian leadership, such an approach has an obvious appeal. It requires no statesmanship, no introspection and no compromise. The only thing that it is not likely to advance, as the past decades have shown, is a genuine and sustainable peace in which each side recognizes the aspirations and rights of the other. In the tragic story of the Palestinian people, this approach is yet another admission by its leadership that it has chosen to pursue illusory political gains in international forums over the practical benefits of genuine peace-making and state-building.
The recent decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber regarding the scope of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction over issues pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a serious setback for moderates on all sides. Quite simply, The ICC has no jurisdiction over the Palestinian case. Israel is not a State Party to the ICC, and there is no Palestinian state which can grant it jurisdiction.
The decision, which dismisses the relevance of the Oslo accords, the painstakingly achieved agreements which have enabled Palestinian self-governance to date, sends a troubling message to peace-advocates that there is little value in exerting the effort to reach compromise and agreement. At the same time, the Court’s reliance on non-binding, one-sided U.N. resolutions rather than a genuine impartial legal analysis, broadcasts to the Palestinian leadership that its strategy of rejectionism and reliance on U.N. politicization is effective.
The ICC was established to address mass atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity, not to pursue democratic states with independent and effective legal systems. If there were any doubts who is strengthened and who weakened by the Court’s misguided determinations on issues over which it has no authority, the enthusiastic praise given to the decision by the Hamas terror organization, which remains committed to Israel’s destruction and which continues to fire missiles against its citizens, leaves little room for doubt. Any decision which so weakens the power of moderates in the region, and so emboldens extremists, cannot bode well for the chances of peace.
Anat Sultan-Dadon is the Consul General of Israel to the Southeast in Atlanta.