Jerusalem: West must uphold a judicious stance | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

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Jerusalem: West must uphold a judicious stance

IN its rightful and logical pursuit of positing legal and political correctness, Australia, under the premiership of Anthony Norman Albanese, has reversed its former stance on the issue of the recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The centre-left Labour Party government agreed that the Australian Embassy would remain in Tel Aviv, as it has been.

The Cabinet also reaffirmed that Jerusalem’s status must be resolved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

The conscience of justice says that the West must boldly proclaim that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal under international law.

Fundamentally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict centres on the fate of Jerusalem, which has to be mutually decided between Israelis and the Palestinians via a two state solution.

For the last six decades, since the Six Day War in 1967— Jerusalem has been facing the issue of its sovereignty—which resulted in the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, ended the armistice demarcation line ‘between the eastern and western sectors’, which consequently started a debate over the Palestinian/Israeli claim over Jerusalem’s sovereignty.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, considers that Jerusalem, whole and united, is the capital of Israel”, and wants the City to “remain forever under Israel’s sovereignty.

” On the other hand, the Palestinians have claimed East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent State of Palestine to be established in the territories that Israel has occupied since 1967.

During the negotiations prior to the Madrid Peace Conference on the Middle East in 1991 and the bilateral negotiations in Washington in 1992-1993, Palestinian and Arab efforts to include Jerusalem in the negotiation agenda failed.

A different approach, nonetheless, is contained in the Declaration of Principles, signed in September 1993 by the Government of Israel and the PLO.

The Declaration stipulates that the status of the City will be negotiated as soon as possible but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period of self-rule, which began upon the Israeli withdrawal from most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area in May 1994.

And yet, the so- called Oslo Peace Accord provided Israel the leverage to continue its de facto occupation without paying any of the costs.

Subsequently, in an Arab initiative led by Saudi Arabia’s then King Abdullah, the Arab leaders in 2002 collectively offered Israel recognition of its right to exist and a normalization of diplomatic ties in exchange for its complete withdrawal from Arab lands occupied since 1967.

The plan reaffirmed the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries and that it would be achieved in accordance with international law.

This included UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which collectively called for Israeli withdrawal in exchange for peaceful ties with its Arab neighbours, as well as a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem based around UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Later, much hope sprang on the Quartet fora —US, UN, EU, and Russia – which was formed in 2003, to seek an amicable resolution of this conflict—its fate still hangs in balance.

Former US President Donald Trump ‘s controversial 2017 declaration— on the status of Jerusalem gave an evil stimuli to Israel’s then Prime Minister Netanyahu to cross the red line vis-à-vis the sovereignty of Jerusalem—thereby shifting the US embassy from its traditional location of Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem On December 8, U.S.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clarified that Trump’s statement “did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem” and “was very clear that the final status, including the borders, would be left to the two parties to negotiate and decide.

In context of international law, Trump’s move has intrinsically violated the basic principles of state sovereignty. Rather, Israel continuously targets Palestinian culture centres in East Jerusalem.

In July 2020, the four Quartet foreign ministers issued a statement declaring that “any annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would be a violation of international law” and that the four states “would not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders that are not agreed by both parties in the conflict.

” Any annexation “would have serious consequences for the security and stability of the region and would constitute a major obstacle to efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive and just peace,” the statement said.

It warned that such a step “could also have consequences for the relationship with Israel” and confirmed the “firm commitment to a negotiated two-state-solution based on international law and the relevant U.N. resolutions.

Recently, a UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry published its first report, on October 20, 2022.

The Three member Commission argues that under international humanitarian law, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is unlawful due to its permanence accompanied by de facto annexation policies.

It argues that the Israeli government’s territory in wartime is a temporary situation —and by no means— it gives Israel the license to annex an occupied territory.

‘’The Commission emphasized that the cumulative effects of occupation practices, including restrictions on movement, have had a pervasive discriminatory effect on Palestinian women…’’ The Commission concluded that by continuing to occupy the territory by force, Israel incurs international responsibilities and remains accountable for violations of the rights of the Palestinians, both individually and as a people.

Therefore, the Commission requests the UNGA to seek an urgent advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

While the Biden Administration, including the European governments, has denounced the Russian annexation of the Ukraine territories, it is time to rightly condemn the Israeli annexation of the Palestinian territories.

Australia’s reversal on Jerusalem’s sovereignty paves the way for the western governments to take a bold and judicious stance on Jerusalem.

With Netanyahu’s coming back into power in Israel, grave apprehensions are mounting regarding the future of Mideast peace.

If the Biden Administration is truly committed to upholding an international liberal order based on justice and human rights, it must restart the Quartet Peace Dialogue.

And like Canberra, Washington must also reverse the Trump Administration’s orchestrated stance on Jerusalem’s sovereignty — a glaring deviation from US’ decades old adopted policy on Jerusalem.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.He deals with the strategic and nuclear issues.

 

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