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October 28, 2009: Israel and International Law

December 14, 2009

OK, mea culpa.  I wrote “Goldwater” Report in my last posting when I meant “Goldstone.”  Lots of people caught it.   And I appreciate having it called to my attention.  With the best of intentions on my part, these glitches do happen.
 
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PM Netanyahu has suggested that a change in the international laws of war is necessary because of new circumstances being confronted.  Sounded good to me.
 
Those laws — Geneva Conventions, etc. — were drafted when war meant two nations with soldiers in uniform faced off against each other. Today we are dealing with a whole new situation, what with fighting forces that are not in a standing army and frequently not in uniform (which makes human rights organizations quick to say we’re killing “civilians” when in fact we’re not); forces storing weapons in and shooting from places of high civilian population (which makes for human shields); etc.
 
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But now I’ve seen a piece by Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice of Canada, and I’ve recognized that he makes a lot of sense:
 
It’s not that current rules of war are insufficient, he says, but that there is selective application with regard to Israel.  What needs to be changed are the procedures of the UN, which “displays a constant country-specific indictment of Israel.
 
“You can’t have a situation where you have special sessions targeting Israel and the rest of the world has immunity. You can’t have a situation where Israel alone is excluded from the regional deliberative groups and therefore cannot participate in the drafting of resolutions….The source of the problem [is] the singling out of one member state for differential and discriminatory treatment.
 
“During the Gaza operation and before it, Hamas committed several war crimes and crimes against humanity. You don’t need to create a whole new law of war to be able to hold Hamas responsible. Goldstone did not address most of the existing laws of war with respect to Hamas, like the Genocide Convention, probably the most important of the treaties…”
 
Cotler believes that even if the laws were to be changed it would not make a lot of difference, if there continued to be selective singling out of Israel.  “The laws of war are very expansive and comprehensive…what you need is equality before the law…
 
“In international law, Israel has emerged as a Jew among the nations.”
 
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More on the upcoming visit by Hillary Clinton, who’s due here on Saturday:

She will be proceeded by Mitchell, who will be arriving tomorrow for preparatory discussions.

How lucky can we get?

Clinton reported recently to Obama on the US attempts to get peace negotiations going.  According to Haaretz, she focused on the setback Abbas has had in public opinion because of his stance (quickly reversed) declining to promote discussion of the Goldstone Report in the Human Rights Council.  And she recommended that US efforts focus on bolstering Abbas.

This is so mind-numbingly stupid that I hardly know where to begin.

Abbas had promised Obama that he wouldn’t push the Goldstone Report and then reversed himself, causing a good deal of diplomatic fallout.  He reversed himself because he couldn’t stand against Hamas and the hardliners in his own party.  He reversed himself without regard for his commitment to Obama or for the impact on his ostensible “partner for peace” (that’s us) about whom he cares less than nothing.

So why doesn’t the Obama administration see that he’s a loser — a poor candidate for peace partner, someone who is incapable of toeing a moderate line and is actually running scared for his skin?  Why does Clinton imagine that anything really good can come of “bolstering Abbas”?

The idea is that this will give him the strength to come to the negotiating table.

Seriously doubt it, but if so, then what?  What does it mean that he sits at the table (or has his representatives do so) if he won’t moderate, won’t compromise, won’t keep his word, and is following the lead of Hamas? 

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In addition to which, there is this very critical factor, which the US ignores (or, more likely, doesn’t grasp):  Attempts by US officials to bolster Abbas may backfire because he will be seen as a US lackey.  Having the US on your side is most definitely NOT a political plus when Hamas is setting the political agenda.  That is what caused Abbas trouble in the first place and motivated him to reverse his position with regard to the Goldstone Report: Hamas and Fatah hardliners were saying he was doing Obama’s bidding (he was).

What I’m seeing — and I’ve just done some research that reinforces my impression here — is that the US is meddling without understanding Palestinian political dynamics. 

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One thing is nagging at me, however, and causing concern: Could it be that Clinton is coming here to pressure us in some additional way?  Could she be expecting to get something from us that could be handed to Abbas as a prize so that he can claim that he came out ahead (thus currying favor in the streets)?  Yes, it could be.  Clinton is no friend. Hillary Clinton is in it for Hillary Clinton.  If she has any values, any principles by which she stands, I have not yet observed them.

Remember this?

 

Hillary bears close watching.

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Now is a good time to say, Please Prime Minister Netanyahu, stand strong when Secretary of State Clinton comes to town.  Do not make any concessions so that she can bolster Abbas!

Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369) 

Phone: 03-610-9898 (From the US: 011-972-3-610-9898) 

E-mail:  pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm) 

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