Strategy to End the Occupation of Palestine

"To assume that Israel is a responsible occupier, marred only by an errant and unfortunate policy towards the Palestinians, is to indulge in the magical thinking."

This is a chapter from:
The International Community and Israel: Giving Permission to a Permanent Occupation by Michael Lynk; January 7, 2022

Michael Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, and was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.

What a Viable and Principled International Strategy to End the Occupation Should Look Like

In my October 2021 report as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations, I have proposed five foundational criteria that would shape a viable and principled strategy by the international community to end the Israeli occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination. As I noted in the report:

Any efforts by the international community, collectively or individually, to create a framework for supervising and ending the occupation that does not place these criteria [ in what follows below ] at or near the core of its endeavours will almost certainly crash upon the shoals of Middle East realism.”

1. Because of the vast asymmetry in power between Israel and the Palestinians, active international intervention is indispensable.

Israel's multiple advantages – its regional military strength, its strong economic ties to the developed world, its complete territorial control over occupied Palestine, and its enduring relationship with the world's sole superpower – ensure that it will continue to dictate what happens on the ground and at any negotiating table. Only the decisive engagement of the international community to counter the abuse of this overwhelming power can alter this downward trajectory.

2. The framework for fully ending the occupation must employ a rights-based approach, anchored in international law and human rights.

The prevailing diplomatic playbook relying on the realpolitik of Israel's 'facts on the ground,' Palestinian weakness, and the absence of law – has resulted in three decades of political failure in Middle East peace-making. Replacing it with a rights-based approach – which, as noted in my report, would "engage the considerable tools of accountability and the already widely-endorsed body of U.N. resolutions and international law” – offers the best chance to end the occupation and open the window to the possibility of a shared and prosperous future together for Palestinians and Israelis.

3. The end goal must be the complete end of the occupation and the realization of Palestinian self-determination

As I noted in the October report,

Self-determination is at the heart of modern human rights, and it is the sin qua non for a just and final peace. Palestinian self-determination must be based on the 1967 borders and the realization of authentic sovereignty, if a genuine two-State solution remains a possibility. But if this faint hope no longer exists, then self-determination must be centred on individual and collective equality rights for all those living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan…

4. Israel is a bad-faith occupier.

The conduct of the occupation for the past 54 years has shown Israel to be unwilling to comply with its obligations under the law of occupation. Israel's

…non-compliance with hundreds of United Nations resolutions from the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council regarding the occupation, and its refusal to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention, are not honest policy differences with the world, but a sustained show of defiance meant to preserve the fruits of its conquest. To assume that Israel is a responsible occupier, marred only by an errant and unfortunate policy towards the Palestinians, is to indulge in the magical thinking that has led to the past diplomatic failures.

5. The occupation must end with all deliberate speed.

Military occupations in the modern world are required to be temporary, with the occupying power expected to end the occupation as soon as possible, and to abstain from any attempt to annex any of the territory it occupies. As I noted in my report to the General Assembly:

Alien rule in the 21st century can only be justified in exceptional and highly conditioned circumstances. Modern international law and effective international statecraft do not tolerate an indeterminate clock for injustice to end, particularly for an avaricious occupation that has long ago slipped the restraining bonds of legitimacy.

The International Community and Israel: Giving Permission to a Permanent Occupation

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