Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Legal War

Israel Update:

In my first day Rosh Hashanah address last fall, I revisited where we stood in the wake of the intense military conflicts in Gaza.  That summary, and those predictions, continue to hold true.

First, low level terrorism has continued in a rough and unorganized fashion. Brutal individual attacks with cars or knives have replaced suicide bombers, but are no better.  The cousin of one of our members lies in hospital still, while his wife and ten children at home, from the November machete attack on a morning minyan in Har Nof.  (To help his family, go to

Second, the post military phase always results in investigations.  Israel has proceeded with these credibly, as always. Rhetoric and accusation eventually gives way in the face of facts, and Israel has nothing to hide.

Third, Abbas' leadership of the Palestinian Authority is in serious trouble. Hamas has successfully convinced large parts of the Palestinian electorate that only they can take action against the status quo. On the other hand, they have also demonstrated that their leadership results in destruction.

Fourth, the Israeli government views Abbas and Hamas as linked and sees no immediate openings for peace talks.  In this situation, Netanyahu has done what he has always done: proceed with land development, secure the borders, punish attackers and their homes that are in reach, keep an eye on Iran, and assert the Jewish nature of the State. He is confident enough in his position to have called for early elections, to be held in March.

Fifth, with no progress in negotiations, devastation in war, and lack of confidence among his own people, Abbas has made his only remaining move: complete commitment to legal battles in the international political arena. This is their only, and best, unilateral move. If he fails in this regard, his career may very well be over.

Sixth, the bid for statehood.  This past week, the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition in the United Nations failed by one vote in the security council.  Of course a US and British veto would have stopped it, but they were not needed.

Now, their next best move will be the International Criminal Court in The Hague. There is no clear way to keep them out, so what will occur when they join it?  This move will also trigger Israeli and US economic sanctions.  Whether the PA as an organization could survive a failure here also be in question.

The truth is, the court will become a regular venue for Israeli and Palestinian incriminations.  Neither side ever thinks that it is wrong, so we should be prepared for new levels if recriminations about the court as cases are won or lost. Stay tuned as early cases become precedent law for future talks or treaties. Despite the risks, I firmly believe that the sweep of legal decisions in the ICC will be for Israel's good. Israel has nothing to fear from a legal court, and having a venue to try Palestinian terrorists will surely be a good thing.  While military superiority is still necessary, peace is ultimately ushered in by lawyers and diplomats.

And with all of this, Israel stands to prove its democratic nature once again in a free and fair election.  There is no internal consensus on any of Israel's policies, and there is much to openly debate. Read some Israeli news, or even plan a trip.  Now, more than ever, we need to stay educated and involved.

Rabbi Robert L. Tobin

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