We spoke with Attorney Alan Baker, who served in the past as legal counsel for the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli representative to the office of the United Nations Attorney General, about the United Nations' decision to allow the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel's status in Judea and Samaria.
"I don't think it's so dramatic and that we have to worry, but we can't just ignore the fact that the Palestinians take advantage of the fact that they are only respected and treated seriously in the UN. Even the PA and Hamas don't take Mahmoud Abbas seriously and they don't trust him, but the international community in the UN is the only place that sees him as a moderate statesman that needs to be cherished, and therefore they vote for their decisions."
Attorney Baker sees the Palestinian move as no more than a "PA publicity stunt" which takes advantage of the fact that "Politically, there is a majority in the UN that will support anything that the Arabs wish to pass, and therefore it received a majority of votes."
Regarding the practical-legal aspect of the decision and the suit at the Hague, Baker says that is not any real meaning to the event, first of all since "the UN assembly's decisions are only a suggestion." Beyond that, the motion is no more than a "request for an opinion." Since that is the case, "The court will write an opinion in another year or two and it is only advising not committing anyone, not Israel and not any other states," Baker clarifies.
"They will likely try to state that the Israeli occupation is illegal and the Israelis are doing terrible things," says Baker and points out an interesting point that is included in the UN's appeal, but is totally detached from international law: "What's interesting legally is that they are sending to the UN regarding an extensive occupation, which doesn't exist in international law. Occupation is legal during situations of war and international law does not set a limit as to the occupation's length. They can rule that Israel is violating international humanitarian law by not letting Palestinians freely move from one place to another, but they can't rule that occupation is illegal when it's long-term since there is no such definition."
Baker also points out that the court in the Hague can not ignore the Oslo Accords according to which the Palestinians agree that Israel will be present in Judea and Samaria until a permanent status is set. According to Baker if the court would conduct itself seriously, these facts would be taken into consideration. When asked if it's a serious legal process or just a preplanned political move, Baker answers: "These are judges who were chosen by states with political positions and they tell the judges what to do. The judges will work by their country's policy.
We don't have to expect that this court, which is a UN body, will rule any differently than the general assembly, but we don't need to take it seriously. It's not committing and it won't cause us any more problems than we have today."