Gripped by panic at Fatou Bensouda’s statement that there’s reasonable basis to investigate it for war crimes, Israel claimed ‘there is either the occupation and no Palestinian state, or there’s a Palestinian state and no occupation’. By using this problematic argument, Israel gave the answer.

In a contemporary take on the historic declaration “Um-Shmum” – a Hebrew expression of disdain for the United Nations attributed to David Ben-Gurion – Israel has been cooking up a follow-up that could be dubbed “Hague-Shmague.” Hague-Shmague posits that the institutions of international law are no more than a redundant nuisance, biased and even anti-Semitic, and should have no clout over the lives of Israelis.

This derogatory thesis has been adopted by the State of Israel since its inception, even though it was international institutions that led to its founding. Such was the sentiment when Ben-Gurion suggested that Israel conquer the Gaza Strip and coined his dismissive idiom, and such is the sentiment today when Israelis hear that the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague believes “there is reasonable basis” to open an investigation into war crimes in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Oh well, many Israelis say, “Hague-Shmague.” And what else would you expect from a world in which the institutions of international law have been defanged and the president of the United States himself flouts it almost as much as he tweets?

 

Only the peculiar panic that suddenly gripped Israeli officials this Friday hinted at the fact that something unprecedented and salient did in fact happen.

In a hurried, last-minute briefing to the press, likely designed to preempt the ICC prosecutor’s statement, the Deputy Attorney General for International Affairs and the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser laid down the attorney general’s famous doctrine: The Hague has no authority to deliberate over the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is not a plea of innocence, but an assertion that “they have no power here.”

Intriguing. But some arguments were even more intriguing, chief among them the claim that “The Palestinians, by appealing to the court, seek to breach the established framework between the two parties and push the court to decide on political questions which should be settled in negotiations and not in criminal-judicial proceedings.”

Or as the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser told reporters: “This is the criminalization of the conflict which could only lead to more polarization between the parties, instead of a diplomatic process which brings them together.”

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