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Gaza - Resolve the root causes says the UN Secretary General

[24 July 2014] - On 22 July, during a press conference in Tel-Aviv, the UN Secretary General stated that: "My message is the same for Israelis and Palestinians: Stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not at the same situation in the next six months or a year.” One can debate what the “root causes” might be, but a few candidates stand out:

  • Approximately 50 per cent of the population residing between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea do not have self-determination. The other 50 per cent do;
  • The majority of those who do not have self-determination are subject to military law, and have been so for 47 years; and
  • The 50 per cent who do have self-determination, either directly or indirectly control 100 per cent of the land. 

Faced with these circumstances it is perhaps surprising that there is not more violence. But the question remains how does one “take on the root causes of the conflict”? Well, for the past 20 years attempts to resolve the conflict have focused on US sponsored negotiations which the objective evidence indicates have been an abject failure. One can speculate as to the reasons for this failure but one factor stands out above all: at no time were the negotiations properly grounded in well established principles of international law. These principles include:[i]

  • Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank are occupied territory over which Israel is not permitted to exercise sovereignty under any circumstance;
  • Military occupations must be temporary in nature; and
  • All settlement activity in occupied territory is illegal. 
The failure to scrupulously apply these principles and the lack of political will to enforce them where necessary has created a situation of unchecked settlement expansion making a two-state resolution a remote prospect. Not surprisingly, the influx of 530,000 settlers into occupied territory also creates intense friction and resentment, resulting in mass arrests and prosecution of adults and children in military courts as well as periodic upswings in violence.[ii] Faced with a political process that has comprehensively failed to deliver, it is inevitable that the focus will now shift increasingly to the courts and other measures in an attempt to obtain a resolution.
Either we believe in the rule of law, or we do not.

[i] See for example UN Security Council Resolutions 237 (1967), 271 (1969), 446 (1979), 681 (1990), 799 (1992), 904 (1994) and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion of 2004.
[ii] According to the UN, since 1967 over 750,000 Palestinians have been prosecuted in Israeli military courts and on day 16 of the current upswing in violence in Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”), 697 Palestinians have been killed of which 74 per cent were civilians. During the same period, 32 Israelis have been killed of which 9 per cent were civilians. See -