Bringing Root Causes Back to the Forefront: Towards a Human Rights Solution in Israel/Palestine

The recently announced Trump plan represents a culmination of decades of systematic denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Israel has instituted a series of laws, policies, and practices that have imposed a regime of systematic racial domination over the Palestinian people, on both sides of the Green Line as well as refugees abroad. The Trump plan entrenches this apartheid reality through further threatened annexation of occupied territory, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians.

We are now witnessing the obvious consequences of a discourse that systematically erases the rights of Palestinian people from the international political agenda. Devoid of meaningful actions, the two-state paradigm of the European Union (EU) has become an empty mantra that subordinates respect for human rights and accountability to a fetishised peace process. As a consequence, the EU and its Member States have largely opposed the pursuit of international justice for Palestinians – be it at the International Criminal Court (ICC), through the United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza protests or regarding the UN Database of businesses operating in Israeli settlements. Even in the framework of its own peace efforts, the EU has also failed to fully implement its non-recognition obligations.

We are missing a genuine political effort that brings the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people back to the forefront. The international community must move beyond the paralysing paradigm that currently exists and address the root causes first. This requires enforcing accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations, apartheid policies and continued annexation of the Palestinian territory.

This human rights-based approach will help the EU activate its normative instruments. First, the primary objective of the EU and its Member States must be the promotion of the right to self-determination and equal human rights for everyone subject to Israel control. This is a just and legally sound way forward, but also the most adequate approach to address the underlying rights-deprivation that has for decades fragmented the Palestinian people. Such fragmentation on the ground is the main tool through which Israel maintains and obfuscates the reality of its apartheid regime.

Second, EU Member States must promote efforts to pursue international justice and accountability, including by supporting the ICC’s authority to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine. Notably, they must ensure the Court’s independence and impartiality, and condemn all attacks and defamation attempts against the Court and its Prosecutor. The rules-based international order that the ICC enshrines is at stake.

Third, further illegal annexation of large parts of the West Bank creates additional responsibility for Israel’s partners, such as the EU and its Member States. They will be maintaining breaches of Union law, bilateral agreements and peremptory norms of international law through their engagement with the State of Israel. Therefore, the EU should enforce appropriate measures to protect its own legal order from the unwanted legal consequences resulting from Israel’s further annexation and colonisation of occupied Palestinian territory.

Finally, settlement products proceed from criminal offences and have been produced through an act that is prohibited in international law and EU Member States’ national legislation. Consequently, the EU should prevent goods and services originating in illegal Israeli settlements from entering the Union market. In the same vein, the EU should terminate all European investment in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. Member States should also promote the UN Database of companies operating in Israeli settlements and support the continuity of its mandate. Last, Member States must ensure that private companies domiciled in their territory and operating in the occupied Palestinian territory do not contribute to violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law.