A different Biden approach could have shaped war efforts and prevented this from happening in the first place
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) just ruled against Israel and determined that South Africa successfully argued that Israel’s conduct plausibly could constitute genocide. The Court imposes several injunctions against Israel and reminds Israel that its rulings are binding, according to international law.
A final ruling will still take more time, but this ruling will have significant political repercussions. Here are a few thoughts.
This is a devastating blow to Israel’s global standing. To put it in context, Israel has worked ferociously for the last two decades to defeat the BDS movement — Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — not because it will have a significant economic impact on Israel, but because of how it could delegitimize Israel internationally. However, the ruling of the ICJ that Israel is plausibly engaged in genocide is far more devastating to Israel’s legitimacy than anything BDS could have achieved.
Just as much as Israel’s political system has been increasingly — and publicly — associated with apartheid in the past few years, Israel will now be similarly associated with the charge of genocide. As a result, those countries that have supported Israel and its military campaign in Gaza, such as the U.S. under President Biden, will be associated with that charge, too.
The implications for the United States are significant. First because the court does not have the ability to implement its ruling. Instead, the matter will go to the United Nations Security Council, where the Biden administration will once again face the choice of protecting Israel politically by casting a veto, and by that, further isolate the United States, or allowing the Security Council to act and pay a domestic political cost for “not standing by Israel.”
So far, the Biden administration has refused to say if it will respect ICJ’s decision. Of course, in previous cases in front of the ICJ, such as Myanmar, Ukraine and Syria, the U.S. and Western states stressed that ICJ provisional measures are binding and must be fully implemented.
The double standards of U.S. foreign policy will hit a new low if, in this case, Biden not only argues against the ICJ, but actively acts to prevent and block the implementation of its ruling. It is perhaps not surprising that senior Biden administration officials have largely ceased using the term “rules-based order” since October 7.
It also raises questions about how Biden’s policy of bear-hugging Israel may have contributed to Israel’s conduct. Biden could have offered more measured support and pushed back hard against Israeli excesses — and by that, prevented Israel from engaging in actions that could potentially fall under the category of genocide. But he didn’t.
Instead, Biden offered unconditional support combined with zero public criticism of Israel’s conduct and only limited push-back behind the scenes. A different American approach could have shaped Israel’s war efforts in a manner that arguably would not have been preliminarily ruled by the ICJ as plausibly meeting the standards of genocide.
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