Netanyahu Vows to Defy International Court of Justice as Israel Moves to Tighten Control Over Southern Gaza Border

The Financial Times reports that Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he will defy any restrictions, aka provisional measures, that might be imposed on Israel by the International Court of Justice in the case lodged by South Africa. As we and many others have pointed out, the ICJ has no enforcement powers, so a ruling against Israel would appear to have no immediate effect unless the UN or other states or international bodies were to impose concrete measures to try to constrain or punish Israel. Admittedly, some states do have provisions that restrict dealing with groups found to have engaged in genocide or other war crimes. From the Financial Times:

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday evening, Israel’s prime minister defiantly brushed aside calls for a ceasefire and blasted South Africa’s allegations that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, brought at The Hague-based International Court of Justice.

“Nobody will stop us — not The Hague, not the [Iranian-led] axis of evil and not anybody else,” Netanyahu said.

“The hypocritical onslaught at The Hague against the state of the Jews that arose from the ashes of the Holocaust . . . is a moral low point in the history of nations,” he added.

If you have any doubts about Israel’s sense of impunity, slaughter of Palestinian civilians continues:

As well as the US enablement:

The pink paper also describes how Netanyahu is not only staring down international low and world opinion but also domestic opposition. Public demands for a ceasefire to secure the release of roughly 130 Israeli hostages are getting louder. Yet the government insists, against evidence, that only continued prosecution of its campaign will lead to the hostages being freed. First, as we know, the active fighting has wound down as Israel has pulled most of its ground forces out of Gaza. Second, pray tell how will an onslaught against Hamas, particularly if in or by damaging the tunnels, not risk hostage death and injury?

However, the Wall Street Journal describes how Israel plans an increase in military operations in Gaza, to secure an area on the south border with Egypt that it claims Hamas uses to smuggle in weapons and supplies. From the Journal:

Israeli officials have informed Egypt that they are planning a military operation along the Gaza side of the border, current and former Israeli officials and Egyptian officials said. The operation would likely involve removing Palestinian officials from a key crossing point and stationing Israeli forces along a stretch of land from Gaza’s southeastern corner abutting both Israel and Egypt toward the Mediterranean Sea about 8 miles to the northwest, the officials said.

For Israel, reclaiming the border region would strike a strategic blow against Hamas. It would allow Israel to block Hamas’s tunnels in the area, limit its flow of weapons, prevent its militants from escaping the Gaza Strip and remove any control the group has over the crossing point.

For Palestinians, it would roll back a symbol of Palestinian sovereignty. It could also open the door to Israel maintaining longer-term control over the border after the war, altering a security arrangement with Gaza that has existed for nearly two decades….

Egypt is concerned that an Israeli operation could infringe on the terms of a 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, which places limits on the number of troops both nations can place near the borders in the area. An Israeli military operation also risks accidentally doing damage inside Egyptian territory. Israeli officials say they are working to address those concerns by coordinating their plans for an incursion on the Gaza side with Egypt.

gypt in recent days rejected an Israeli proposal that would involve stationing Israeli security personnel on the Egyptian side of the border for joint patrols with Egypt, saying it would breach Egyptian sovereignty….

Israeli leaders haven’t given a final go-ahead for an operation along the border and the timing of any operation will depend on negotiations with the Egyptian government…

Egypt says its military and intelligence services maintain tight control over the border area. Using diplomatic and security channels, Egypt has been pushing back on Israel’s plans in hopes that Israel will back down, Egyptian officials said.

The article contains a lot more backstory, such as how in 2005, when Israel pulled out of Gaza, it kept control of the airspace, the sea border, and all entry points except at Rafah. However, the fact that Israel stopped aid trucks from entering at Rafah would suggest it has at least some control there. The Palestinian Authority and EU monitors were initially in charge. They left when Hamas took power, although Israel coordinated with Egypt to curb entry.

Those who know the situation in Gaza better than I do should feel free to correct me. I find it odd that Israel is turning, apparently only now, to the matter of the Rafah entry and southern border only now. Even yours truly who knew close to bupkis about Gaza knew that Hamas depended significantly on its tunnels into Egypt for supplies. So why, pray tell, did Israel focus on flattening northern Gaza first, trying to force the population into souther Gaza, and now decide it has to better secure the border to interdict supplies to Hamas? Why did it not instead bomb the southern border area first, and try to move Palestinians out of there so it could work on capturing the border from the Gaza side and attack the tunnels there so as to choke Hamas’ necessities?

The timing raises the specter that this is military theater to bolster the Israel claims in the International Court of Justice that it is waging war against Hamas, as opposed to seeking to eliminate Palestinians in Gaza. by (finally) launching a Hamas-focused operation. Even though Netanyahu professes to be unconcerned about the ICJ, he would be at the head of the line in any International Criminal Court prosecution. Perhaps a few in the Israeli adminisphere are looking to create some plausible deniability. Or perhaps this is to demonstrate to the Israeli public that Israel is still Doing Something about Hamas despite the troop withdrawals in Gaza. Or perhaps this move is to even better, erm, control humanitarian supplies. From Al Jazeera:

The lack of aid entering Gaza through Rafah and other border crossings has been solely caused by Israel, according to Diaa Rashwan, the chairman of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS).

“Throughout these 100 days, has been the stubbornness and intentionality of the occupying Israeli authorities, at other Gaza Strip crossings, delaying the inspection of aid before allowing its passage to the Palestinian side, by virtue of its military control over the territory of the Gaza Strip,” he was quoted as saying in an SIS post on Facebook.

Rashwan added that the Rafah crossing hadn’t been closed “for a single moment” on the Egyptian side, while Israeli authorities deliberately disrupted or delayed the entry of aid “under the pretext of inspecting it”.

So Israel is as determined as ever to continue on its current course.

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  1. Acacia

    Netanyahu has in effect given the ICJ the bird. So much for international law.

    As others have pointed out in comments on earlier articles, the ICJ itself is now on trial.

    If SA’s case against Israel is dropped for procedural reasons, or if Israel is given a token slap on the wrist — when so many people in the non-West see what is actually happening in Gaza —, it will only help to cement world opinion against institutions like the ICJ, and look towards greater violence (i.e., escalation) as the only solution.

    1. Feral Finster

      Don’t kid yourself. This is a no-lose from the position of Israel.

      As Ed Snowden pointed out, the US exerts considerable pressure on the ICJ to ensure that it doesn’t issue rulings that the United States doesn’t like. So if the ICJ bows to American pressure and rules in favor of Israel, or tries to split the baby or bounce the hearings on procedural grounds, Israel will claim vindication. “See, even the do-gooder wimps at the ICJ endorse this genocide!” The killings will continue.

      If the ICJ admits the obvious and rules against Israel, Israel will scream antisemitism and its American thug will ensure that no country dares enforce that ruling. The killings will continue.

    2. Will

      I read the South African application last week and portions of the transcript of the Israeli presentation on Saturday along with several of the cases they cited. Based on my non-expert reading, I believe either the fix is in or Netanyahu decided to give the ICJ the bird some time ago. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the entire Israeli presentation was a propaganda exercise. A view that I think is confirmed by the Israel Today article in today’s Links.

      I was mostly interested in reading the portions of the Israeli transcript regarding the “dispute” issue (page 24, paras 11 to 27) as that is a recent development in ICJ jurisprudence. After reading several of the cases they cited, I thought their argument weak but understandably aggressive. But after reading a small portion of what followed (page 28 paras 28 to 41), I believe the entire presentation may be meant for use as propaganda and not to try and succeed before the ICJ. Thirteen paragraphs is a ludicrously small portion of a 75 page document on which to base such a conclusion, but hear me out.

      After some throat clearing about the importance of intent, Mr Shaw for Israel says (page 32, para 40):

      To make it clear, in order to determine the policy and intentions of the Government of Israel, it is necessary to examine the decisions of the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs and the War Cabinet, and to examine whether the particular comments expressed conform, or not, with the policies and decisions made. Thus, to produce random quotes that are not in conformity with government policy is described as misleading at best. Such as the statement by the Minister of Heritage63, for example, who is completely outside the policy- and decision-making processes in the war. In any event, his statement was immediately repudiated by members of the War Cabinet and other ministers, including the Prime Minister64. [Emphasis added.]

      The Genocide Convention intends to criminalize actions of people that have the request intent regardless of “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals” (Genocide Convention, Art. IV). Thus, Contracting Parties to the Genocide Convention are required to enact domestic laws that penalizes genocidal acts by people (Genocide Convention, Art. V).

      South Africa is asking the ICJ to order Israel to comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention by investigating and prosecuting people who may have committed acts of genocide. Please note that incitement to genocide and complicity in genocide are also punishable acts under Article III (c ) and (e), respectively, of the Genocide Convention. Thus, incitement of and complicity in genocide must be crimes under Israeli law pursuant to Article V of the Genocide Convention.

      None of Mr Shaw’s presentation regarding the intentions of the Government of Israel are relevant to South Africa’s application or the decision to be made by the ICJ. The command structure and other details regarding how Israel is prosecuting its war against the Palestinian people are not relevant. As I understand it, Mr Shaw also pointed to supposed humanitarian efforts as proof the Government of Israel harbors no genocidal intentions. Again, not relevant. Also, efforts by the Government of Israel to supposedly aid victims does not excuse or cure the failure to investigate and prosecute individuals within Israel for potential acts of genocide, including incitement of and complicity in genocide.

      I did not read the rest of the Israeli presentation. Perhaps if I did, I would find Mr Shaw or the other agents for Israel addressed substantive issues and made coherent legal arguments on behalf of their client. And
      if they did, then I am wrong to conclude that the entire Israeli presentation may have been for propaganda purposes. A mistake easily predicted considering I read only a small portion of their arguments.

      However, the Israel Today article in today’s Links makes me think I’ll not find egg on my face. For example, it contains this quote from “Avraham Shalev, an adviser and specialist in public law at the Kohelet Policy Forum” regarding South Africa’s application:

      “The quotes of anyone who isn’t directly involved with the decision-making process of the war are not relevant for establishing intent,” Shalev said.

      This is an incorrect statement of the law. The intent of the Government of Israel is not relevant because the Genocide Convention criminalizes the actions of individuals, not states.

      The article then goes on to repeat other arguments from the Israeli presentation, namely Israel’s lawful aims in its prosecution of its war against Palestinians and how supposed provision of humanitarian aid demonstrate lack of genocidal intent by Israel. As stated above, these arguments are not relevant to the South African application and the decision to be made by the ICJ as the question at issue is the actions of people not the Government of Israel.

      According to the article, the Israeli presentation also invoked the well worn lie that its right to self-defense justifies its actions with the added twist that an order by the ICJ would infringe on that right. Israel does not have a right of self defense with respect to Palestine because it is an Occupying Power. As an Occupying Power, Israel has obligations akin to a prison guard that legally limit their response regardless of anything the ICJ may order.

      Lies upon lies, with the Israeli presentation before the ICJ the latest.

  2. Alan Roxdale

    The move to seize the border is more obviously a move to support an eventual forced displacement. I doubt whatever border barrier the Egyptians have installed will last long if the IDF is free to bring bulldozers up to it.

  3. Dissident Dreamer

    Netanyahu has said he will defy any restrictions, aka provisional measures, that might be imposed on Israel by the International Court of Justice

    Israel has somewhat painted itself into a corner with its defence at The Hague. The court could refrain from imposing a ceasefire, almost certainly futile, but simply demand that they verify all the statements they made.

    Israel does all it can to avoid civilian casualties. Prove it. Show the targeting information for each strike including the number of expected civilian and combatant casualties and allow UN inspectors to check the results.

    Israel does all it can to facilitate humanitarian assistance to reach Gazans. Prove it. Let’s see the number of trucks get back up to the pre war level of 500 per day. If Israel can’t inspect them fast enough allow the UN to help.

    Hamas uses hospitals as military headquarters. Prove it. Allow UN inspectors to look over all the currently operating hospitals and all the retrievable ones to check and do whatever possible to bring those not being used by Hamas back to full operation.

    The court should go through all the statements made and demand verification. Such measures would not be restrictions unless, as is obviously true, the Israelis are lying.

    1. undercurrent

      And while all the proofs are being dutifully obtained, and the Jews will be swift, I’m certain, in their eagerness to comply with the wishes of the Court, how many more men and women, and children and infants, will have to die because of the maniac madness of (family blog) Netanyahu and his lapdog, genocide Joe? Time is wasting. Justice delayed is justice denied. The more laws, the less justice.

      1. Dissident Dreamer

        I want a ceasefire badly. Thinking about the deaths, maimings, hunger and disease makes me sick and I think about it a lot.

        Sadly I think there’s little chance the court will demand a ceasefire and less that Israel would comply if they did.

        I’m looking for a way to at least slow down the carnage. The only thing outside of Biden that could make that happen is the Israeli public. Apparently they don’t really know what’s actually happening in Gaza and believe that what Israel said in court is true. If they see their government refuse to have its statements verified it could turn enough of them against it.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I can pretty much guarantee the court won’t. It has no authority over Hamas. Israel has argued that imposing the two of the nine provisional measures that would require Israel to stop fighting in Gaza would open up Israel to attack by Hamas and unable to defend itself.

          1. Dissident Dreamer

            Yes. That’s my thinking too. It was about the only part of the Israeli case that made any sense to me apart from the dispute/standing issue.

            I also hope the court insists that Israel takes part in a peace conference as the Chinese are demanding. The sooner that starts the better.

  4. furnace

    “Nobody will stop us — not The Hague, not the [Iranian-led] axis of evil and not anybody else,” Netanyahu said.

    Sounds like a totally well-adjusted government that puts “Axis of Evil” and “The Hague” as being equivalent to one another.

    Breaking: Starvation has reached unprecedented levels… Thousands in western Gaza city rushed out upon hearing of a food truck’s arrival, only to be fired upon by the Israeli army. #GazaGenocide

    How can a people be so evil? As someone who as a deep respect and a certain sense of awe for Primo Levi’s writings, the Holocaust just lost all power of justification to me. They have managed to do the unthinkable: make the mass slaughter lose its aura of specialness.

    The Entity must perish, and once it is but a name in the wind it must become a story never to be repeated again, as the Holocaust used to be.

    1. Kouros

      “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20)

      1. Synoia

        The original inhabitants living in Israel seen to have bee ejected by the sword.
        That was just the first practice run.
        There was another after they escaped from the Assyrians,
        and we are now seeing the return after the Romans acted.

    1. Feral Finster

      Put another way: laws are for the little people. Policy is for The People Who Matter, because policy determines when the law applies and to whom.

  5. john r fiore

    If this isnt Genocide, then there is no such thing as genocide….aided and abetted by the Biden administration….shocking…

    1. nycTerrierist

      and puzzled: if only out of self-interest, is Genocide Joe (and his vile team of enablers)
      so short-sighted and stupid
      he doesn’t see how this will tank his re-election?

      will be good riddance

      1. cousinAdam

        Is it paranoid to think that there might be some kind of crisis event being planned to derail or indefinitely delay presidential elections? The possibilities are manifold. “I must not think bad thoughts…..” (X)

        1. JonnyJames

          Good riddance for the JB regime and welcome to the DT regime. DT might even be a more rabid, racist Zionist than JB. Too many naive people WANT to believe that DT will make a difference, despite the evidence in front of them. They want to believe the BS and ignore facts. I guess to admit that the US is an authoritarian oligarchy would cause too much psychological discomfort, it is easier to remain in denial.

          1. NYMutza

            I agree with you. Trump has long fantasized himself being a Mafia Don, with all that entails. His real estate business in New York brought him in close contact with the mob families that controlled much of the city’s construction trades, especially during the 1070s-80s when Trump was coming up. His use of nicknames is straight out of the Mafia playbook. Ditto for his tough talk. The real Dons had hit men to take care of their adversaries. Trump doesn’t have that, so he is limited to tough talking. It’s hard to take Trump seriously. I certainly don’t. He is mostly a clown show.

    2. JonnyJames

      Yeah, It’s not a crime when the US/UK/Israel does it. Iraq was bombed into the Stone Age, based on a pack of transparent lies – well over a million people were killed as a result. Before that, siege warfare killed off an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children, yet Albright said “the price was worth it”.
      The US mass murdered several millions in SE Asia in the late 1960s and early 70s.
      The list goes on… instead of being held to account, Kissinger got a fkn Nobel Peace Prize.

      The “law” and taxes are for “the little people”, what we have here is purely power and interests.

  6. eg

    Regarding the Israeli decision to bomb the northern half of Gaza first, I interpreted it as an attempt to drive the population across the border into Egypt.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Netanyahu would have said this to play to local audiences as he knows that most people want to dump him for his catastrophic failures and abandoning the hostages. Whether he stays or goes is irrelevant as it seems that Israel as a country is in full agreement with what they are doing in Gaza. Apparently they are getting constant stories about October 7th in their media but probably not seeing the part where Israelis probably killed more of their own people that day than Hamas when you don’t factor in those soldiers killed in battle fighting Hamas. I do not know what the Israelis are thinking will happen after this war and if they think that the whole world will shrug off this genocide. Maybe they think that America will shield them from the worse consequences. Maybe they think that everybody will love doing business with them again. Or that Hollywood will make heroic stories about October 7th to put them in a good light. Nonetheless Israel will forever be associated with genocide the way that the Germans were after WW2. And that remains true, even if they stopped tomorrow. As it is, Israel is probably waiting for cholera and typhoid epidemics to take hold in Gaza to ease their problems.

    1. NYT_Memes

      Dark thought in alignment with “When they tell you who they are, believe them” – Maya Angelou

      Look at how the Zionists in Israel and the US power structure are truly ties at the hip. Who is really running the show here? The Israelis have benefits, especially medical benefits, that Americans do not. Our geopolitics don’t seem to be any different than to support Israel at all costs. On and on if you really think about it.

      My thinking is going towards the scenario that after a soft coup which happened somewhere in the last 20+ years the US is really controlled by Zionists intent on ruling the world. Crazy, I know. The mask is off.

      I apologize up front for not providing links or other backup because it would take a book to explain.

    2. Rain

      RevKev – I heard Alistair Crooke say recently there was a recorded open argument within the Knesset about needing to keep up the starvation, disease etc to “pressure Hamas to surrender and release the hostages” and secondly, to build enough “collaborators, to be bought with food and water in giving up Hamas positions”. Crooke noted that was a common Nazi tactic in the Jewish ghettos in WW2.

      And just one brave Knesset member publicly stated his support for the South African case, and the Knesset have moved to expel him. It would appear that whatever dissent there is in Israel has been effectively suppressed, or they have already left the country or making plans to leave.

      In any event, the ICJ is the last legal/diplomatic path available for the ROW (Rest of World, as in West-vs-Rest), perhaps when it fails, somebody or a group of somebodies will take some sort of action eg try to break the blockade to get aid inside?

  8. Micat

    Netanyahu and Israel can say and do whatever they want only because of Joe Biden and the us’s support.

      1. ISl

        I wonder if an ICJ ruling would clear Hezbollah, legally, whenever they finally respond to IDF escalation and move south into northern Israel. I cannot see a non-military solution (agree with Scott Ritter).

        Hezbollah has enough missiles to shut down Israeli airfields (you can’t fly an F16 from a road) long enough to collapse remaining IDF armor and defenses while the one US aircraft carrier is sitting far away (to avoid being sunk by Hamas).

        Destroy the Haifa refinery and the major Israeli power grid and Israel will not have a functioning economy for years. Will Israelis flee rather than live without amenities (the Houthi blockade, already effective, will be complete once the ports are destroyed)? Israeli agriculture is energy-intensive and still not self-sufficient. And will the world replace the destroyed infrastructure with the ICJ ruling?

  9. MicaT

    So true however I wasn’t speaking specifically to the ICJ and the unfortunate lack of enforcement. But it’s the only avenue open to bring anything as the US would block anything that had enforcement.

    Without US weapons ( past snd present) and US cover at the UN Security Council and maybe other international organizations/powers that I’m not aware of Israel could be isolated quite quickly.

    I’m thinking cease fire, financial sanctions, embargo’s, allowing BDS, maybe oil embargo, the list could be quite long. The kinds of things the US does to other countries that don’t do what the US wants.

    I don’t think that this war would last or have lasted this long without the US cover/support.

  10. Beachwalker

    I don’t know whether any complete worldwide historical survey of genocide has ever been compiled and printed. Of course one of the first hurdles would be to derive a reasonable definition of what is and isn’t a genocide. Not an easy undertaking; there are so many historic slaughters that could be given consideration. My question is that once a reasonable definition and historical survey were put together, would an objective reader be able to conclude that the incidence of genocide is, over the centuries, growing or shrinking.

  11. anaisanesse

    Edward S. Herman and David Peterson have written an excellent book, “The Politics of Genocide” published by Monthly Review Press New York in 2010 with copious examples of different types of genocides and massacres. As Chomsky said “If we did it, it’s not a genocide”. They carefully dissect the evidence.

  12. jobs

    The article contains the spelling error “international low” which somehow seems fitting regardless.

    1. Savita

      Oh and in a classic case of what Yves Smith and Aurelian call, ‘ Doing Something’.

      Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has just left for an utterly meaningless tour of the Middle East. For the benefit of the Australian domestic audience.
      The article I linked to, above, notes Penny Wong took three months to release a statement acknowledging Palestinians agency.
      I wrote to her a few months ago on this matter. At least she replied which is more than can be said for all the others I wrote to.
      But the email, voicing respect for this and that and dismay for that and thou, was unreadable. It was literally like it was composed by ChatGPT. I actually responded asking if they were now using that technology

    2. Rain

      Yes Savita – Australia feels it can’t afford to piss off the USA, especially in its current belligerent mood!!
      perhaps with very good reason, they are still too powerful for little piddly Aussieland to get on the wrong side of. We have to walk a scary tightrope with both US and China, given where we sit in the southern Indo-Pacific.

      but Albanese’s short mutters & mumbles with sober, quiet “lets keep our heads down, focus on domestic issues, and stay very, very calm and say and do as little as possible” messaging etc –

      which are marginally better than if the Coalition was in power right now – with Dutton and co, we would have banned Palestinian flags & keffiyas, internet/social media crackdowns, arrested anybody and everybody close to dissent, sent all 3 of our ‘warships’, (and a few more for good measure) lead a ground invasion of Yemen, and it would be 24/7 mass media bombardment with US/Israeli flags fluttering everywhere – up there with Germany and the UK.

  13. Not Moses

    Don’t underestimate South Africa’s move against the Israeli genocide of Palestinians. While the ICJ has may not have enforcement powers, the symbolism of Israel being dragged to the Court is huge. The professional victims have lost “that” blackmailing ace. A guilty verdict against Israel, would be lethal. Soft punishment can still strike a consequential blow, no matter what the editorial pages of the WSJ or NYT say. It makes it easier for a global boycott to follow.

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