Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt newspaper

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Will Justice Deter Israel?

Will the International Court of Justice’s decision prevent or deter Israel from continuing its war in Gaza? The answer is no! True, the Court made an important decision when it ordered Israel to halt military operations in Rafah “immediately,” and to keep the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt open. It is legally binding, but there is no mechanism for its implementation.
The verdicts of the ICJ, the most powerful judicial body in the United Nations, are legally binding. Its new decision is very important. However, the ICJ has no enforcement mechanisms, and its decisions cannot be implemented without the help of Washington, which has criticized the decision, the Court, and even the judges.
Yes, the decision is important. It isolates Israel further and deals another blow to its reputation. However, it is not enough. Ignoring the decision will not even embarrass Washington. Indeed, Washington has avoided the ICJ for fear that it could go after the US, especially over its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. At the end of the day, Washington has "veto" power in the Security Council.
Despite the decision, Israel, whose politicians have now become hysterical, continues to bomb Gaza and Rafah. So, what is the solution? There are no easy solutions because the facts on the ground matter more than anything else, especially since the battle continues.
It is true that Israel is growing more isolated. Every international judicial decision has gone against it. However, it has military control on the ground, and this is what matters in any negotiation during a war. Meanwhile, Hamas is losing both on the ground and legally, especially after the request issued by the International Criminal Court prosecutor, but it has maintained its political intransigence.
Hamas has not taken any real political steps. It has made no progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation, the negotiations, or the release of prisoners held in Israeli jails. Nonetheless, it simply seeks to go back to the status quo that had been in place on October 6th.
Doing so will be difficult, regardless of Sinwar’s brinkmanship, which Netanyahu is also pursuing. Indeed, the balance of power is different, as are the facts on the ground. This is a crucial matter that cannot be ignored at all.
Netanyahu, as everyone, including the Americans, now knows, wants to extend his political life. International judicial decisions might push him to take a more aggressive approach, potentially going as far as instigating a devastating war on Lebanon under the pretext of pushing Hezbollah back. Many in Israel support this.
Indeed, according to a report our newspaper published yesterday, even Netanyahu's former army commander, General Amiram Levin, voiced his surprise at how weak Netanyahu has been in the face of far-right ministers like Ben Gvir. The general said he believes Ben Gvir should be behind bars, and called him a "dog." However, he has taken a strong stance against the party.
Levin, who was asked to discuss the war and the escalation on the Lebanese border with Netanyahu, given his former role as commander of the Northern Command in the army, has stressed that Hezbollah is Israel’s most dangerous enemy. He says that it must be "addressed before Hamas and any other organization," calling for a preemptive war against Hezbollah, "before it becomes more powerful” and poses what he feared could become “an existential threat.”
Netanyahu has options, whereas Sinwar is isolated and cannot consult anyone publicly. Nevertheless, he has not taken any political steps that could put Israel, and by extension Netanyahu, under pressure. This is a real problem that Hamas has not understood yet, and I doubt they ever will.