Why the ICC Prosecutor Is Wrong on Oslo

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Dennis Ross - Having served as the lead American negotiator on Middle East peace and a participant or mediator in Oslo talks and other Israeli-Palestinian discussions from 1993 to 2001, I know the inside history and content of the accords intimately. In response to an invitation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber, I submitted an amicus curiae brief explaining that the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has misrepresented the terms and meaning of these agreements in a number of ways. The OTP asserts that Oslo's "object and purpose" was "to give effect to the Palestinians' right to self-determination." But that is inaccurate; the accords had several equally important goals, including Israeli security, peaceful coexistence, education for peace, and the development of effective Palestinian governance. Self-determination could not be fully advanced beyond Oslo's interim self-governance arrangements unless these other goals were fulfilled. The agreements explicitly made any Israeli transfers of additional territory and authority contingent on Palestinian progress toward ensuring security, combating terrorism, and preventing incitement. These and numerous other obligations were never sufficiently fulfilled. When the OTP mentions a key provision regarding Oslo's legal significance - that neither side would be "deemed, by virtue of having entered into [the accords], to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims, or positions" - the Prosecutor strikingly interprets this as applying only to Palestinian positions and not to Israel's longstanding claims. Moreover, the OTP does not mention the role that Palestinian terrorism and rejection have played in preventing the emergence of a state. Any analysis that gives weight to only one side's wrongdoing comes across as politically motivated rather than legally credible. Making political arguments is not the OTP's role. Doing so discredits the ICC, undermines its effectiveness, and threatens to undo the principle that international law is driven by legal standards and canons rather than political ideology and preferences. The writer, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, is the counselor at The Washington Institute.

2020-06-17 00:00:00

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