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The Relevance of Principles of International Law to the Israel-Palestine Conflict

2002 , par Rachad Antonius

2002, The Relevance of Principles of International Law to the Israel-Palestine Conflict. Rapport de recherche.

Extrait du texte


There are two ways of addressing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. One is based on the pure balance of power between the parties, by virtue of which the diktats of the stronger party will prevail. The other is to take international law as a guide to finding an appropriate solution that is likely to be conducive to a durable peace and democratic system of government.

Historically, the first approach has proven to be disastrous in many conflicts throughout the first half of the 20th century. Consequently, after WWII, a number of international treaties and conventions were negotiated, and the scope of international law was expanded in an effort to prevent conflicts by ensuring that the solutions were not based solely on the ability of the stronger parties to impose their will. Efforts were made to ensure that civilian populations had their rights protected by the international system, particularly when they themselves were not in a position to defend such rights. The Geneva Conventions were among the results of this line of thinking. Afundamental principle that emerged from this evolution is that of the non-admissibility of acquiring populated territory by war.1 This should be a guiding principle in determining a human rights organization ?s position on an issue such as the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. However, no solution can be based on international legality only. The system of international law is not a vertical system where a superior authority can impose a solution on conflicting parties, but rather a horizontal system where power relations still have more impact than the law. Thus, some degree of disregard of international law is to be expected to accommodate the stronger party, in this case Israel. If, however, the law is completely disregarded to accommodate the stronger party, it can lead to an unsustainable solution on two grounds : i) social upheavals and further violence, particularly if those concerned feel the solution is unjust ; and ii) formal challenges of the said agreements by individuals or groups, who might take it to the relevant international bodies, thus putting the agreement in jeopardy. International experts evaluate that, in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, both modes of challenging an unjust agreement are possible and likely.2 Moreover, a great degree of disregard for international law has been observed so far. This is the longest conflict ever addressed by the UN system : it was on the UN’s very first agenda in 1945 and remains there, unresolved.

Which International Legal Instruments Apply ?

International law is often referred to, by one or the other of the two parties, in the discussion of current violations of its rights and of the human rights of its citizens. The purpose of this paper is not to discuss these violations of international law, but rather to study what international law has to 1 This principle has been stated in several resolutions concerning the Middle East. It also appears in the Charter of the UN under the following formulation : ?Article 4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations ?.

This line of thought has been argued, among others, by Quigley (1999 b). say about an eventual solution to the conflict. However, these two dimensions are intimately linked. The reason is that the policy of Israel has been to create ?facts on the ground ?, in violation of international law, precisely in order to pre-determine the outcome of the negotiations on a permanent solution.

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