Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Israel Stuff

A few thoughts on what's going on regarding Israel these days:

1) The Winograd Report came out today. The Report doesn't blame any particular individuals but lays the blame for the war's failure on the political and military leadership. The idea of going to war was a good one, but the execution, planning and communication between the IDF and political leaders were disasters, leading to at least the perception that Israel, the region's strongest power, lost to a quasi-military force.

Basically Lebanon II was Iraq II, but much worse. The Iraq invasion was at least carried out competently, even if the occupation and reconstruction were poorly done. By Lebanon, the entire process from beginning to end was a failure. Sure it's significant that Nasrallah declared victory from the rubble of a bombed-out village (only in the Arab world does victory mean "not losing"), but a regional superpower like Israel should have had a solid plan in case war with Hizbollah broke out. Apparently they didn't.

2) It looks like the UN Security Council won't be issuing a presidential statement about the Gaza situation. Apparently the US would not sign onto anything that equated responses to terror with the acts of terror themselves. Frankly these declarations are worthless, but they make it more difficult for Israel activists to defend Israel. It's not as easy as it looks to defend Israel when the other side can point to dozens of security council resolutions that Israel supposedly violated.

3) Israel's Supreme Court upheld Israel's right to blockade Gaza. This ruling reminds me of a book I read a number of years ago called The Occupation of Justice, written by David Kretzmer, a professor of law at Hebrew University. He argued that Israel's Supreme Court has generally deferred to the legislative and executive branches on issues relating to the territories. They were only strongly activist when it came to human and civil rights questions within Israel proper.

Off the top of my head, that seems pretty accurate. They haven't been deferential on every issue (but neither has the US Supreme Court) but they've been much more laid back than their reputation admits. For example, despite almost universal agreement among legal scholars who are not openly pro-Israel that the territories are subject to the Geneva Conventions, the Court has never ruled that way. They even allowed settlements that were not built on private Palestinian land (which is the majority of the territories) despite the fact that settlements are strongly opposed by the liberal elite in Israel. And even though the International Court of Justice ruled that the security fence violated international law, the Court took a much more moderate approach.

Of course in Israel itself the Court is extremely activist. They've tried to become the moral arbiters of Israeli society, which is unacceptable. But characterizations should be as accurate as possible.

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