Major UN Court decision adds to Israel’s growing isolation

In 2011, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that Israel faced a “political-diplomatic tsunami” of censorship if its conflict with the Palestinians was not resolved, as peace talks collapsed and revolution spread across the country. Middle East.

For Israeli foreign policy analysts, that tsunami has never seemed closer.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice, an arm of the United Nations, ordered Israel to suspend its military campaign in Rafah, southern Gaza, adding to a growing list of diplomatic and legal measures against Israel that have undermined its international standing. .

The ruling came just days after prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, another international court, called for the arrest of Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, a move that was supported by some of Israel’s long-time partners, including France.

The order came the same week that three European countries took the coordinated step of recognizing Palestine as a state. It also followed widespread protests on college campuses in the United States against Israel’s campaign in Gaza, as well as decisions by Turkey to suspend trade with Israel and by Belize, Bolivia and Colombia to sever diplomatic relations with Israel.

“It’s not about the levels of isolation of North Korea, Belarus or Myanmar, but isolation,” said Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York. “It creates a tremendous feeling of pressure.”

The latest action by the International Court of Justice may not have immediate practical effects: under the terms of the order, Israel has one month to demonstrate how it has complied with its instructions. Even if Israel ignores the order, the ICJ has no means to enforce it. In theory, the United Nations Security Council can issue a resolution on the matter, but the United States, Israel’s most powerful ally, has a permanent seat on the council, allowing it to veto any measures against Israel.

But taken together, the measures against Israel show not only the decline of Israel’s international reputation but also the decline of American influence, said Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington, as the United States is increasingly unable to Prevent American allies and international institutions from attacking their main partner in the Middle East.

“There is a change in the rules of international politics,” Rabinovich said.

“The rest of the world is on its way to overtaking the United States,” Rabinovich said, adding: “They are saying, ‘We can’t beat you at the UN, but now we have two international tribunals and we will move to those tribunals.'” places where you have no control.’”

In that context, the United States and other strong allies of Israel, such as Germany, have adopted a more critical tone against the Israeli government, even as they try to defend it from foreign condemnation.

In the second week of the war, President Biden flew to Israel with a clear message: “You are not alone.” But in recent months he has expressed growing concern about Israel’s counterattack in Gaza, calling his strategy a “mistake” and some of his actions “scandalous.”

He also stopped a shipment of bombs to Israel, signaling his opposition to Israel’s plans to invade the urban center of Rafah.

Germany’s position has also changed subtly: Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, asked during a visit to Tel Aviv in March: “No matter how important the goal is, can it justify such terribly high costs?”

Still, Israel may feel able to continue the war as long as the United States maintains most of its financial and military aid. In April, Congress voted to provide Israel with another $15 billion in military aid, highlighting that Washington generally continues to act in favor of Israel even as some American leaders express verbal reservations.

Biden will have to weigh any additional measures against Israel against the political cost. While a stronger stance could boost him with his left-leaning base, it could also allow Republicans to present themselves as better allies of Israel. President Mike Johnson has been indicating for weeks that he intends to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress.

Inside Israel, however, the measures against his government could strengthen Netanyahu, analysts said. Days after ministers in his government spoke out against Netanyahu’s leadership, court decisions have led those same ministers to close ranks and show a united front.

Rebukes from foreign governments and institutions also give Netanyahu another opportunity to present himself as a defender of Israel, shoring up his waning domestic support, said Pinkas, the former diplomat.

“This plays into their narrative that the world is against us and I will stand firm,” he said.

Still, Netanyahu’s critics said Israel’s standing would be higher if it had not squandered the outpouring of goodwill toward Israelis that followed the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7.

Opposition to Israel’s warlike conduct has been spurred in part by controversial comments by government ministers, who have called on Israel to maintain permanent control over Gaza or even drop an atomic bomb on the territory. Israel’s security services have also often failed to prevent Israeli civilians from obstructing aid convoys and looting their cargo.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s opposition leader, criticized the court ruling, saying: “Israel was the one that was brutally attacked from Gaza and was forced to defend itself against a horrible terrorist organization.” But he also said the ruling could have been avoided if a “sane and professional government had prevented wild statements by ministers, stopped criminals who set fire to aid trucks and carried out quiet and effective political work.”

Israel’s isolation has spread to the cultural and academic world, where decades-old calls to boycott Israeli artists and universities have gained momentum.

In recent months, universities in countries including Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Spain have announced that they have cut ties with their Israeli counterparts or are considering doing so.

“We want to give a clear message that the war that the State of Israel is now carrying out in Gaza is unacceptable and undermines the democratic foundation on which all universities must build,” the University of Southeastern Norway said in a statement in February after ending its exchange programs with two Israeli universities.

Thousands of artists signed an open letter in February asking organizers of the Venice Biennale, one of the art world’s most important festivals, to ban Israel from participating in this year’s gathering.

Although the festival ignored the request, the Israeli team behind the country’s entrance decided to close its exhibition to the public until a ceasefire was reached. But that failed to quell opposition to their presence, and more than 100 protesters (some of them artists involved in the Biennale) marched through the festival site in April, chanting “Long Live Palestine.”

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting from Tel Aviv and Jonathan Rosen of Jerusalem.

Leave a Comment