The Palestinian Arena – A Dangerous Political Front



By Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead and  Lior Akerman​​ | December, 2022


International Criminal Court
Photo: Greger Ravik | CC BY 2.0


Last month, the UN Special Committee on Politics and Decolonization, who is not known for being a huge supporter of Israel as it is, resolved to request of the International Court in the Hague to inquire into the ongoing Israeli occupation in West Bank territories. What this resolution means is that the court will be able to determine, upon completing its inquiry, that Israel’s ongoing occupation of West Bank territories is an unlawful de facto annexation of these territories according to international law.

The court, comprised of 15 judges, will rule on this matter following an in-depth examination and investigation of it. It is noteworthy that, although its judgments do not legally bind either party, many countries regard its rulings as a form of international legal standard. According to the resolution that the Palestinians are asking of the court, the Israeli occupation will no longer be temporary, as determined by UN Security Council Resolution 242, meaning the kind of occupation that will end following negotiations based on a land-for-peace format, but will instead be defined as a permanent state of affairs constituting a de facto annexation. Under such circumstances, the court may recommend that the UN impose sanctions against Israel or boycott it.

From a Palestinian leadership perspective, the decision to embark on this journey was clearly made in order to take the confrontation with Israel another significant step forward. It appears to be an unofficial announcement that the Palestinian Authority has, in effect, abandoned the possibility of peace talks with Israel, and is, instead, opting for an international legal battle. Such proceedings would provide encouragement and support for many antisemitic organizations worldwide, including those engaging in BDS, and the UN resolution itself could lead many countries to give Israel a cold shoulder in a wide range of areas to be discussed in due course.

The vast majority of Israelis do not like using the term “occupation” with regard to territories earmarked for the Palestinian Authority, or recognize the existence of said “occupation”. Right-wingers claim these territories form part of greater historical Israel, and the Palestinians have no right to them in any event, so, therefore, there is no occupation. The left argues that there is ongoing occupation under which the Israeli military is controlling another nation on land that does not belong to us.

Either way, it is a political, security and civilian catch-22 from a domestic and international perspective. In fact, since the Oslo accords initiative, and Yitzhak Rabin’s decision to sign an agreement with the PLO on the future establishment of a Palestinian state, no other Israeli leader has focused on this area, and it seems that all the Israeli governments have done their best to avoid making decisions pertaining to this issue. This art of indecision and lack of long-term Israeli strategy on the future of the Palestinian Authority seems to have been perfected over the last decade. During it, it was clear to all that the person heading the Palestinian Authority had no intention of trying to achieve any political progress vis-à-vis Israel, having made his own strategic decision to leave this world with a legacy similar to that left behind by Arafat. A legacy that glorifies his leadership over the Palestinian people while making no concessions on any demand in the fight against the Zionist occupation. During this time, it also became clear that Hamas was entrenching itself and building up its force in the Gaza Strip, establishing its own sovereign state, from which it wages its wars of terrorism against Israel and, indeed, the Palestinian Authority itself.

Nevertheless, the Israeli governments have never bothered to formulate a long-term security or political strategy vis-à-vis these entities, resorting time and again to responsive, improvised, and at, times, even makeshift conduct.

It is noteworthy that the United States and some of the EU countries, much like Israel itself, have exerted some pressure on the Palestinians to prevent them from making this step. However, anyone familiar with Abbas should have known and realized that this man has decided long ago to remain steadfast on his path, and be remembered this way. It was therefore impossible to make him change his mind.

As for the expected implications of the court’s judgment, and the UN resolution that would follow suit, we are facing a wide range of condemnations from across the globe. But the saga will not end there. Many of the countries that have yet to decide on this issue may take a clear position against the occupation, boycott Israeli products altogether, certainly those produced in Judea and Samaria, and perhaps even go as far as to impose sanctions on Israel, and prohibit its participation in international forums or global projects. Moreover, investments in Israel amounting to hundreds of millions of Dollars that have already been approved by the European Union and United States in areas such as science, agriculture and medicine, may be frozen, thereby disrupting research, experiments, and various developments being led internationally by Israel. What else should we expect? Having the current state of affairs defined as an ongoing occupation would subsequently define the various Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as a crime under international law, prohibiting the settling of civilian populations in occupied territories. All hope of a dialogue with the Palestinians would be terminally crushed, meaning that the Palestinian Authority as a ruling entity would sink to oblivion, and its people would inevitably resort to terrorism too. The IDF and ISA would once again be held responsible for security across the territories, as they were prior to the Oslo accords, and Israel’s political status worldwide would deteriorate considerably.

Thus, despite the court’s ruling not being binding, its collateral damage could prove detrimental to Israel. Add to that the fact that the government currently being formed in Israel features some components that most countries around the world are repelled by, and we are facing a very difficult life internationally, possibly even isolation.

Which brings us right back to the absence of an Israeli action strategy by which to counter the Palestinian Authority’s determined proactiveness. Rav Kook once said that if we do not aspire to rise up, we will inevitably fall down. Meaning, one cannot stand still. Being inactive is essentially going backwards or slipping downwards. And that is exactly what is happening to Israel in all areas. In this instance, we are discussing its conduct vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority. And, in the absence of any Israeli initiative to resolve this issue, or, at least, contain it, the PA will take initiative instead, as it has been doing, actively promoting its interests or, at least, those of its leader.

As soon as it is formed, the Israeli government should draft a political initiative for the promotion of arrangements with the Palestinians with international support. Although the current political state of affairs will make it very difficult to talk about “peace” or “ending the occupation”, not to mention “a Palestinian state”, an incremental process of rebuilding trust should clearly be formulated and proposed. Such a process must include a series of local arrangements in various areas, such as security, water, agriculture, industry, and employment. The success of each agreement over time would enable the signing of additional arrangements in a similar format to the one formerly suggested by President Trump, but without setting the end goals of the plan.

Only an Israeli proposal and initiative of this kind, that has garnered the international support of the EU, U.S., Egypt and Gulf states, could enable Israel to counter the Palestinian steps currently being taken against us in international institutions, improve Israel’s image worldwide, and prevent possible boycott and sanctions against it.



Authored by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) and Lior Akerman, a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS), Reichman University.


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