How Palestinian ‘lawfare’ could backfire
When it comes to a long-term solution for our conflict with the Palestinians, there is no unanimity among Israelis. Many feel that the two-state solution is the only realistic option, while others believe that a Palestinian state would endanger Israel, and therefore a regional agreement is needed to address this complex issue.
Nevertheless, despite these divisions, there is widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly referred to as “lawfare.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has again presented the United Nations with a unilateral plan for achieving Palestinian statehood. Abbas’ statement at this year’s U.N. General Assembly, in which he rejected negotiating with Israel, is coupled with his repeated threats to use international forums against Israel if his demands are not met.
It appears that Abbas is trying to achieve via international institutions what he was unable to accomplish at the negotiating table. He seems to be ignoring, however, that the Palestinians have a lot more to lose from such actions than Israel.
In March, as Israel and the American mediators were trying to hammer out an agreement extending the U.S.-sponsored talks, Abbas decided to sign papers admitting the Palestinian Authority to 15 international treaties and conventions. Many experts in international law see little value in the move. If Abbas goes ahead with his plans to use international institutions to force concessions from Israel, then Israel, the United States and other fair-minded countries should demand that the Palestinian Authority be held accountable to the treaties and conventions it has signed.
If he proceeds down this route, Abbas will soon find that his own P.A. is in blatant violation of at least 11 of these 15 treaties and conventions. In April, just a few weeks after rejecting the American efforts to continue the peace talks, Abbas announced that his Fatah faction was forming a unity government with the Hamas terrorist organization. It is well documented that during their battle with Israel this summer, Hamas regularly used area inhabited by Palestinian civilians to launch attacks on Israeli civilians. This put them in direct violation of the Geneva Convention that the Palestinian Authority signed for both firing from civilian locations and purposely targeting civilian population centers.
Another treaty of which the P.A. is likely to find itself in direct violation is the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Abbas apparently signed this convention without closely examining the legal system of the Palestinian Authority, which includes a law forbidding selling land to Jews. Those who have broken this law have been sentenced to death. It is hard to see how Abbas would defend such a law in international legal forums.
One more example relates to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption that he signed in March. Even the biggest financial supporters of the P.A. regularly report blatant irregularities regarding the funds they contribute. In September, the European Union reported “significant shortcomings” in the P.A.’s management of the $2.5 billion in aid that was provided from 2008 to 2012. Close observers of the P.A.’s budget know that this is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mismanagement and outright corruption.
I raise these issues not to threaten the Palestinian Authority but to make clear that there is legal and diplomatic recourse for unilateral Palestinian action. Regardless of one’s positions on Palestinian statehood, it should be made clear that this 100-year-old conflict will not be resolved if Abbas continues on his path of unilateral action and attempts to circumvent direct dialogue with Israel.
The latest conflict in Gaza and the newfound public awareness of the evils of Hamas have afforded the Palestinian leadership with the chance to improve the condition of its people. Instead of once more validating Abba Eban’s statement that the “Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” we can only hope that Abbas will change course. Now is the time to disassociate himself and the P.A. from the terrorists of Hamas and join with the moderate forces in the region who are striving to end Islamic fundamentalism and move the entire region forward on a path of progress and hope.
Based on his most recent actions, it is doubtful that Abbas will have the moral courage needed to make the hard choice and put his people on the right side of history. Personally, I am even more skeptical than many of my colleagues that Abbas will make such a move.
What needs to be made clear, however, by the governments of Israel and the United States is that unilateral actions and diplomatic warfare by the Palestinians will no longer be met with defensive hesitation. There can be real tools that can be used against such actions, and we should not shy away from using them.
Danny Danon, a Knesset member, has served as Israel’s deputy minister of defense.