Posted on: January 24, 2011 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 6

Wow. Tzipi Livni really lays it on the line in this one: “I was the Minister of Justice. I am a lawyer…But I am against law — international law in particular.  Law in general.”

Israel has generally argued that its policies are legal under international law. The classic example, of course, is the argument that the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs, among other things, the behavior of states that occupy

Tzipi Livni, seeming to say "Yo, I got your international law right here!"

territory not their own, does not apply to the Palestinian Territories because they were not legally part of a state prior to the Israeli occupation. Sure, no one else buys the  argument (even, at least technically, the US doesn’t, though they’ve accepted the Israeli terminology referring to the Territories as “disputed” rather than “occupied”), but the ability to make the argument has always been important to Israelis.

Well, Livni does away with all of that, doesn’t she?

The comments were part of a discussion aimed at producing a joint statement at the Annapolis Conference. Livni went on to say that “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.” The disdain for international law, seeing it as an inconvenience and annoyance, both something undesirable and not much of an obstacle, couldn’t be clearer.

I’m not a big fan of international law in modern politics. When it actually functions as a legal system, rather than a tool to be used by powerful countries at their whim (which, to be sure, sometimes can lead to good uses), I’ll be more interested in its playing a central role in diplomacy and politics.

Still, Israel is a signatory to many international treaties, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and others which it violates as a direct outgrowth of the occupation. Anyone who cares about Israel’s long-term interests must see that mainstream Israelis have always valued the rule of law, even while their government scoffed at it as a matter of course.

This has to change, and it starts with Israelis and their supporters insisting that Israel comply with its own laws and the agreements it has made. Livni stands against that, something to remember when we are considering how much better an option Kadima is.

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  1. Guardian claim about Livni in Palestine Papers contradicted by their own document

    Except that, as the following transcript shows, the document clearly contradicts this characterization of Livni’s’ remarks.

    Livni opens the meeting: I would like to suggest that we will continue according to what I tried to at the beginning of the session yesterday, but unfortunately while doing so we ended up in some sort of a discussion. At the end of today’s meeting the minimum that is required is some sense of the six or seven points that you stated that need to be in the document. Just [a] list [of] what is agreed or not agreed. Put aside the core issues for now, just have a list of agreed and not agreed, in points. If we have this agreement… let’s not include the areas of disagreement now.

    Ahmed Qurei: We can finish tonight the subjects – the preamble. What are the components. Not the language or the nice words etc. We should focus on three things in the preamble. One is the terms of reference [“TOR”]. The three core elements in addition to the [nice] language. One is the TOR. Second is the 2 state solution. Third is the Roadmap [“RM”]. Is there anything to be added to the preamble?

    Livni: No – it’s ok. And what we called before some good words. The basic idea of where we are going. End of conflict, [the goal is] to find a way to do so… something like this.

    So if you want to summarize the positions, this is something we did in our former conversation. When it comes to the TOR we want reference to 242, 338, the RM and other agreements agreed between the two sides. You added, and this is the problem, the API [Arab Peace Initiative], international law, 1515, 1397, and 194. And we wanted the three principles of the Quartet.

    [more discussion of what should be included in the Terms of Reference and Preamble for the document]

    Qurei: International law?

    Livni: 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.

    Livni’s “I am against law” remark is merely signaling that she does not want any reference to legal issues, or international law, in the joint (ceremonial) statement, so that a final peace agreement will be easier to achieve.

    In other words, the Guardian buried the lead of this particular story which should have read something like: “Document shows Tzipi Livni flexible, and committed to achieving a peace deal.”

    Beyond burying the lead, the Palestine Papers reveal the Guardian doing what they do best: burying facts which contradict their preconceived conclusions.

  2. Well, the article I wrote was based on a full reading of the document in question, not the Guardian excerpt. And it very much supports what has been Israeli policy all along. Let us not forget that both Israeli political leaders and the High Court of Justice have agreed that the Occupied Territories are covered by the rules of the Fourth Geneva Convention, but as Moshe Dayan said, that doesn’t matter.

    This is a long-standing issue in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, where the debate is over various references, but Israel has consistently resisted, for obvious reasons, including the depth and breadth of international law, and Livni here follows the very same pattern. Contrary to your assertion, She is very clearly saying she wants no reference to international law..that the conversation is part of the discussion of the joint statement is clear. That Livni wants international law to be no part of the proceedings is just as clear.

    As to Livni’s flexibility and commitment, I suggest you read the other documents, which show just how far the Palestinians went in their proposals, and what the Israeli response was.

  3. […] in the new government as a dedicated supporter of the two-state solution. This, however, is somewhat belied by her experience as Foreign Minister. Though considered a leading dove even then, Livni rejected […]

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