The Hague houses both the International Criminal Court, which is seated in a standard office building and has been a source of worry for Israeli leaders for a decade, as well as the International Court of Justice, which is located not far away in the magnificent century-old Peace Palace and is expected to be a source of trouble for Israel in the coming years.
The worst-case scenario—a future declaration by the ICJ stating that Judea and Samaria are being annexed—will not be a blow to Israel, but a headache at most. The countries that are already hostile to the Jewish state do not need a court to justify their approach. Similarly, the states that understand the situation or support Israel will not change their policies because of a political opinion disguised as international law. There have been plenty of these over the years, and we are still standing.
Saturday’s vote at the United Nations makes it clear who is on our side and who is against us. Sixty-nine countries opposed the measure, which is not a few. These include the United States, Germany, Canada and Australia, where left-wing governments have been in power in recent years. Italy stood by us for the first time as well, as did others.
And speaking of reality, it is not yet certain whether the ICJ will even publish the opinion that the United Nations is requesting. The whole world knows that the conflict is political, not legal. With this very rationale, many countries have turned to the ICC requesting that it not advance Palestinian claims against Israel. By the looks of things, those requests were convincing. The process is stuck there, which is a good thing.
In any case, even if such an opinion is published, it will take years before it is written. So early in the game, no one knows what it will say, much less what its effect will be on the world. But it doesn’t mean we can bury our heads in the sand.
The Palestinian appeal to the ICJ is a desperate step taken by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and his people in order to internationalize the conflict. This process started more than a decade ago, at which time then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not counteract.
Abbas learned that he is not held responsible for the diplomatic battles he starts with Israel, which is why he has since escalated by appealing to a long list of international institutions.
It was a dire mistake. Israel has and has had a lot of leverage against Abbas and the senior P.A. officials. There is no reason, for example, for him to fly to meet with leaders around the globe as long as he seeks to undermine Israel’s status. The same goes for other senior P.A. members as well.
These are the first tools in the toolbox and they are now at the disposal of the new government. They will have to use them until the final vote in the General Assembly in a month. In addition, the new foreign and defense ministers—when appointed—will have to make it clear to the United States that it must put limits on the Palestinian Authority. The administration is very afraid of its disintegration. It must therefore contribute to returning the demon attempting to internationalize the conflict straight back into the bottle.
Ariel Kahana is Israel Hayom’s senior diplomatic commentator.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.