Livni prescribes international law for Arabs– but refused her own medicine

Israel/Palestine
on 15 Comments

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a piece by Israel’s former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, calling on emerging Arab democracies to obey an international code in constituting their polities so as to exclude extremism. The piece seemed idealistic; she invoked ideas of international community, and international law:

Current events in the Middle East highlight the urgency of adopting at the global level what true democracies apply at the national level – a universal code for participation in democratic elections. This would include requiring every party running for office to embrace, in word and deed, a set of core democratic principles…

This initiative is merely one way international leadership could make a real difference. Without swift action, this concept risks being overtaken by events. A universal standard, applied to all states, that empowers those truly committed to democracy and disempowers the extremists who seek to abuse it, offers an opportunity to advance the free world’s hopes, confront our fears and answer the call of thousands throughout the Middle East.

But the Palestine Papers published by Al Jazeera last month show that Livni herself has rejected any notion of international community, especially one involving Arab countries, when it came to Israel’s conduct. “I am against law — international law in particular.  Law in general,” she told a Palestinian interlocutor in 2007 as they prepared for the Annapolis meetings convened by the Bush administration. And Livni explicitly rejected the idea that the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by 22 Arab states, would frame the resolution of the conflict. And of course a year later she helped launch an assault on Gaza that killed more than 1300 people and was the subject of an international legal investigation– the Goldstone Report (buy an abridged version here)– that she has also rejected.

Here’s the interchange from the Palestine Papers, from ’07. AA is Abu Alaa, the lead Palestinian negotiator: 

TL [Tzipi Livni]:

  •  Ok. I would suggest we find a place for the API [Arab Peace Initiative] not as part of the TOR [Terms of Reference, an official statement to guide the peace process] but in another place.  

AA:

  •  I think that this is a mistake for Israel. It is the only real compromise from the Arab world.

TL:

  •  We can find another place for it…  it is not part of the TOR.

 AA:

  •  This is a main principle.  Part of the TOR. This is what will make the Arab states come.  

…AA:

  •  International law?

 TL:

  •  NO. I was the Minister of Justice. I am a lawyer…But I am against law — international law in particular.  Law in general.
  •  If we want to make the agreement smaller, can we just drop some of these issues?  Like international law, this will make the agreements easier.

[TL made the point that Palestinians don’t really need international law. Palestinians protest this assertion.  AA raises examples of where it is important, such as water, and that it is key for the parties to agree what the permanent status agreements will be based on.  Abr says that the agreement will be whatever is agreed at the table.  At one point during this discussion, SE raises a problem with the “as adopted” language with respect to the Roadmap and previous agreements, noting that this would encompass the Israeli reservations which is not acceptable to the Palestinian side.]

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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