UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UKLFI and other NGOs File Joint Submission to the International Criminal Court

UKLFI, ILF and other NGOs  have filed a Joint Submission to the International Criminal Court Disputing its Jurisdiction over the Alleged Territory of a Supposed State of Palestine.

A substantial submission by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), International Legal Forum (ILF) and other NGOs demonstrates that Israel, as the national state of the Jewish people, has the strongest claims to sovereignty over Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Unless and until rival claims are resolved through negotiations between the parties, these areas cannot be the territory of a separate State of Palestine.

The submission was filed by UKLFI and ILF together with leading international Jewish organisations, Bnai Brith and Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Jerusalem Initiative, an association representing Arab Israeli Christians living in Jerusalem.

The submission starts by addressing one-sided accounts on which the Prosecutor relied for the historical background. We point out that the Jewish people are actually the indigenous people of the Land of Israel who retained their national identity and connection to the land throughout a long period of dispersion and exile.

The submission then shows that the rights granted to the Jewish people by the League of Nations Mandate to reconstitute their national home in Palestine extended throughout the part of the Mandate territory between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea. At the same time as the Jewish people were granted these rights over 3.7% of the Middle East territory liberated from the Turkish empire by British forces in the First World War, 96.3% of the liberated territory was allocated for the creation of Arab States (now Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq), not counting Hejaz (now a major part of Saudi Arabia) which had declared its independence in the middle of the war.

The rights of the Jewish people set out in the Mandate for Palestine were preserved by Article 80 of the UN Charter, and the International Court of Justice has confirmed in a series of cases that rights recognised in Mandates continue despite the dissolution of the League of Nations and the departure of the Mandatory until they are fulfilled by the establishment of the State contemplated by them in the territory. The Mandate for Palestine was fulfilled within the 1949 armistice lines by the establishment of the State of Israel and in the whole of Jerusalem following its unification in 1967, but has not yet been fulfilled in the remaining parts of the Palestine mandate between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea, i.e. Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In those parts, rights and obligations established by the Mandate remain in force.

Furthermore, the prosecutor completely ignored a key rule of international law, uti possidetis juris, under which newly independent States have the previous boundaries of the entities from which they emerge. This rule was applied to the South American States that emerged from the Spanish Empire, the African States that attained independence from colonial rule, and the States created on the dissolution of the USSR and Yugoslavia. The International Court of Justice has held that it must be applied even if it impinges on self-determination. When the Jewish community of the land of Israel declared the independence of the State of Israel, the boundary ran down the Jordan river and no other State emerged west of that line.

The parties and the international community have rightly agreed that the only practicable way of peacefully resolving the rival claims is through negotiation, but until agreement is reached,  we submit that Jerusalem,  the West Bank and the Gaza Strip cannot be regarded as the territory of a Palestinian State.

The submission goes on to draw attention to fundamental inconsistences in the different claims made by Palestinians as to the territory of the supposed Palestinian State and the fact that the Oslo Accords did not confer on the Palestinian Authority (PA) criminal jurisdiction over Israelis that the PA could delegate to the ICC. The submission concludes with a section on the rights currently enjoyed by Arab Israeli Christians in Jerusalem which they do not wish to lose by submission to the jurisdiction of the PA. Despite invoking self-determination, the PA does not appear to be concerned with the views of many Arabs living in areas which it claims as its territory who are proud to be Israeli citizens.

A number of other submissions have been made disputing Palestinian claims, the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction and the propriety of the ICC pronouncing on its territorial jurisdiction. However, ours appears to be the only submission to present a positive case demonstrating Israel’s legitimate rights and claims.

Jonathan Turner, UKLFI Chief Executive, said: “We are very pleased to have had the opportunity of presenting these arguments together with our colleagues at the International Legal Forum and the other NGOs. We hope the Court will consider them carefully.”

The full submission can be viewed here: Observations on jurisdiction by UKLFI BBUK ILF JI and SWC 16 March 2020