In the wake of the landmark International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Israel is plausibly engaged in a genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza, all states that are party to the Genocide Convention now have a legal obligation to take material steps to put an end to Israel’s genocidal acts in the besieged Strip.
In this context, the decision by many Western nations to withdraw funding to UNRWA, the UN’s main humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees, over unsubstantiated “terror” allegations made by Israel, is not only perplexing – the very opposite of what the court legally obliged them to do – but also highly abhorrent as starving Palestinians face a deepening famine and deadly disease outbreaks in besieged Gaza.
The real aim of Israel’s lobbying efforts to undermine UNRWA is the liquidation of the Palestinian identity and the right of return of the Palestinian people that the UN agency has come to embody.
If the Western states, and especially the United States, continue to bow down to Israel’s genocidal demands they will only add further weight to the accusations that they are complicit in its genocide in Gaza.
What is at stake today is not only the future of millions of Palestinians and the very viability of the Israeli state, but the stability of an entire region, and the future of the rules-based world order.
Unabated, Israel’s assault on Gaza, with the unconditional backing of the West, risks a regional conflagration further inflaming conflicts from Yemen to Iraq and Syria, and paving the way for an unprecedented surge in terrorism across the globe.
Today, there is mounting anger towards Western powers not only in the Arab world, but across the Global South, for their perceived complicity in Israel’s massacres of Palestinian civilians. Terrorist organisations like ISIL and al-Qaeda could not have asked for a better environment to regroup and mount new attacks on the West, as the global majority now views the West solidly as an enabler of the ongoing genocide of an occupied and oppressed Indigenous people. There is every reason to expect such terror groups, or brand new ones like them, to take advantage of this moment and launch attacks against Western populations and their allies and supporters across the globe.
The future of the entire rules-based world order – and international law itself – is also very much at risk. The stark contrast between the West’s response to the war on Ukraine and the war on Gaza, has convinced many that international law applies to the West’s enemies, like Russia, alone. With the West demonstrating clearly that it considers itself and its allies, in this case, Israel, as being beyond the constraints of the law, there has been an immense loss of trust in international institutions like the United Nations. Indeed, the UN not only found itself completely powerless to stop Israel’s blatant violations of international law and attacks on Palestinian civilians, but could not even hold it to account for its outbursts against its secretary-general and targeting of UN staff in Gaza.
Given the global majority’s strong opposition to the continuation of Israel’s war on Gaza, and the expressed position in favour of a two-state solution of the vast majority of the UN member states, including the permanent five at the Security Council, there is only one way to give another life to the rules-based world order, bring stability to the Middle East, and prevent the dawn of a new era of terror across the globe: ending the occupation of Palestine.
This is also the only feasible way forward for Israel. After Hamas’s October 7 attack, as is evident in the erratic actions of its far-right government and the desperate acts of extreme violence it unleashed on the Palestinians, Israel has lost all confidence in its deterrence capabilities in the region. Israelis are feeling more vulnerable and exposed today than ever before. Many of its citizens have lost trust in the ability of the state of Israel to ensure their security, and are questioning the state’s viability in the region.
Only the end of the illegal occupation, supported by a settlement in which the Arab states assure Israel that it is indeed a part of the region, and can exist among them in peace and prosper, would allow Israel to regain a sense of security and permanence.
Clearly, the longest ongoing occupation in recent history must end – and quickly. However, given the current gridlock and the total devastation of Gaza, the first step towards ending occupation should be to bring the Palestinian people – who have now been identified by ICJ as a unique “group” – under international protection.
This interim arrangement must be put in place under the auspices of the UN – whose involvement would restore the legitimacy of the rules-based order, for a period of three to five years, until a fully functional and independent Palestinian state can be realised.
During this period of international protection, an independent tsar, appointed by the UN with the approval of the global community, must lead the process and be responsible for day-to-day governance, with guidance and support from a special council made out of individuals representing all Palestinian factions, including Hamas.
There would likely be serious objections to the inclusion of an official Hamas representative into this set-up, but it should be possible to include in the council a non-member who is acceptable to the group, and can represent its interests. The inclusion of Hamas in any peace process is crucial as no sustainable settlement can be achieved without acknowledging the concerns and expectations of the group that has led Palestinian armed struggle against occupation for many years.
Given the West’s undeniable pro-Israel bias, the countries that have shown care and consideration for the rights and wellbeing of the Palestinians, and respect for international law, throughout this latest conflict, such as South Africa, Turkey, and Brazil, should be part of the international protection coalition. This coalition should also ensure the security and territorial integrity of Jordan and Egypt.
Security enforcement in the Palestinian territories during this transitional period under international protection could follow a hybrid model – a local police force supported by an international force.
The responsibility of shepherding such a proposal via the Security Council must fall on the United Kingdom and France given their historic responsibility in the creation of the State of Israel and subjugation of the Palestinian people.
The rebuilding of Gaza, which has been reduced to rubble in the past four months, will inevitably be part of the mandate in the interim international protection period. Countries that are directly responsible for the destruction, Israel, the US and Germany among others, should provide the bulk of the required financial resources, keeping in mind that the total rebuilding cost will be less than 20 percent of what the US has promised Israel in terms of additional military support to guarantee its security.
Alongside the formation of an inclusive interim council, a series of immediate steps must be undertaken by the international community to help restore Palestinians’ faith in the international community and the feasibility of its protection.
First, the ICJ’s interim ruling must be supported, and its recommendations implemented in full, by all the world’s nations. This means the killing must stop, captives on both sides should be released, the siege should end, adequate aid and basic services should reach all Palestinians in Gaza immediately. Meanwhile, an independent review of the West’s military support for Israel should be launched and they should be held to account for their complicity in genocidal acts. It must also be made abundantly clear to Israel’s far-right government that ethnically cleansing Gaza or the West Bank is not an option. All the hostages, on both sides, must be released.
Second, the international community must make it clear to Israel that it cannot infringe on the territorial integrity of Gaza by occupying any part of the territory, establishing a so-called “buffer zone” within it or dividing it into smaller settlements.
Third, the international community must unanimously call for an immediate and unconditional cessation of all illegal construction and land-grabbing activities in the West Bank and demand accountability for the violence and aggression perpetrated by Israeli settlers against the Palestinians. World’s nations must insist on Israel decommissioning all the settlers outposts in the West Bank, and obviating any such intentions in the Gaza Strip.
Fourth, Jordan’s custodianship of the Al-Aqsa Mosque must be maintained and sanctity must be restored to all Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
Finally, to ensure that the Palestinian people can live freely and with dignity under the governance of their own elected representatives, the international community should officially recognise a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and commit to ensuring the swift implementation of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals in post conflict Palestine.
This promise can kick start the formation of a Palestinian social security/support system – something which will be desperately needed the day after.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.