Wednesday was a difficult day for tiny Israel on the stage of world politics and diplomacy, with the tide of opinion, especially in Europe, turning squarely in favor of the Palestinians at the small country’s expense. In Geneva, world powers gathered to condemn Israel’s actions in Judea and Samaria; in Luxembourg, the EU Court of Justice removed Hamas from its terror blacklist; and back in the United States, a draft resolution was introduced at the United Nations demanding an Israeli withdrawal from lands wanted for a Palestinian State by 2017.
Geneva Convention Conference
Geneva hosted a one-day conference for the signatories to the Geneva Conventions which govern the rules of war and military occupation.126 of the 196 parties attended Wednesday’s gathering, which adopted a declaration condemning Israel’s activities in Judea and Samaria. The 10-point declaration seeks to “emphasize that all serious violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and that all those responsible should be brought to justice,” reported The Times of Israel.
The declaration demands that the Geneva Conventions be applied by Israel in conflict zones between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly by not building settlements in Judea and Samaria, which the Palestinians want for their own country. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power is prohibited from colonizing the occupied territory, however, Israel insists this statute does not apply in Judea and Samaria, whose sovereignty has been undetermined since 1947, when the Arabs rejected the UN partition plan. From 1948-1967, those lands were occupied by Jordan, along with Egyptian occupation of Gaza, and at that time, nobody objected.
Additionally, the declaration demands protection of civilians in those areas and East Jerusalem during times of conflict.
Israel, the US, Canada and Australia all boycotted the summit, which Israel’s Foreign Ministry called, “a political move whose sole aim is to utilize the important stage of the Geneva Conventions for the sake of denigrating Israel.” Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement saying, “Canada has conveyed its deep concerns and has communicated clearly that it will neither attend this conference nor lend it any credibility.” Ynetnews reported that Israel’s UN mission blasted the gathering, saying, “It confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are, while condemning a democratic country fighting terrorism in accordance with international law.”
EU Court of Justice Decision
Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as anticipated, removed Hamas from the EU terror blacklist, citing improper evidence and procedure. Although the move is a technical one, which EU countries have two months to rectify without needing to unfreeze Hamas assets, the decision nevertheless brought condemnation from several corners.
“We are deeply concerned by the decision of the EU General Court to annul, on procedural grounds, the measures against Hamas,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement quoted by AFP and Israel National News.
“We call on the EU to take the immediate remedial steps necessary to keep Hamas listed as a terrorist entity,” he added.
“The EU should maintain terrorism sanctions on Hamas,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “The U.S. position on Hamas has not changed; Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
“Hamas continues to engage in terrorist activity and has demonstrated its intentions during this summer’s conflicts with Israel,” Psaki added. “It fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas and attempted to infiltrate Israel through tunnels that extended into Israel.”
The Times of Israel reported on Israeli reaction to the news. “Today we witnessed staggering examples of European hypocrisy: in Geneva they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes, while in Luxembourg the European court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations, Hamas that has committed countless war crimes and countless terror acts,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying.
“It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil six million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing,” he added.
EU representatives have said they still consider Hamas a terrorist entity and are investigating further to have them reinstated to the blacklist.
Palestinian UN Draft Resolution
At the UN, a draft resolution introduced by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians softened its stance slightly, but continued to demand a firm timetable for Israeli withdrawal from territories claimed for a future Palestinian state. According to AFP, which obtained access to the text of the draft, it calls for a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation” and sets “Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two States which fulfills the legitimate aspirations of both parties and protects freedom of worship.”
The timetable outlined in the draft sets a 12-month negotiation period to resolve all issues, with an additional two years for a full Israeli withdrawal, adding a year to its initial deadline of November 2016 in the October version of the resolution.
Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour said he would not push for a quick vote on the issue, in the interest of improving relations and thereby the resolution’s chances for success. He was also open to amending the text if needed.
“We will continue negotiating with all of them and with the Americans if they are ready and willing so that we perhaps can succeed in having something adopted by the Security Council to open a serious door to peace,” the envoy said, as reported by Ynetnews.
Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz, however, called the move “an act of war.” The Times of Israel reported that he told Israel Radio, “The Palestinians made sure to remove any mention of Israel’s status as a Jewish state from the draft, which means this is not an act of peace, it’s an act of war.”
It is speculated that the US will use its veto against the resolution if it deems necessary, but it has not committed to doing so. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the US would review the resolution and would not oppose it if “it’s done in the spirit of working with people to see how we could proceed forward in a thoughtful way that solves the problem, doesn’t make it worse.” Nine of the 15 members of the Security Council must vote in favor of the resolution for it to pass.