Friday, 24 May 2024

Empowering Statesmen Over Attorneys: Shaping Western Security Policy Towards Israel

Empowering Statesmen Over Attorneys: Shaping Western Security Policy Towards Israel
Tuesday, 09 April 2024 12:29

In my tenure as editor of this newspaper, I took great pride in enlisting Joshua Rozenberg, formerly of the BBC, as our legal affairs editor. He embodied the cherished tradition of specialized journalism, a tradition that has sadly waned in the 21st century media landscape. This tradition prioritized accuracy over simplification, especially crucial in the realm of law where precision is paramount.

I previously stated that Joshua epitomized this ethos, but I must correct myself—he continues to do so admirably, maintaining an authoritative legal blog. This week, I turned to his insights once again, as I often did during my editorship, seeking clarity on complex legal matters.

On Thursday, a group comprising 809 former judges, KCs, barristers, solicitors, and academic lawyers penned an open letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to uphold international law regarding Israel's actions in Gaza. Among their demands was a call for Rishi Sunak to halt the supply of weapons to Israel, citing a purported "plausible risk of genocide" in Gaza, allegedly supported by a recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling.

However, Joshua Rozenberg refutes this interpretation. He clarifies that the ICJ's order did not mention a "plausible risk" of genocide; rather, it merely acknowledged the plausibility of the Palestinians' rights, not the risk they face. The oversight of such a fundamental distinction, particularly by Lady Hale and the signatories, reveals the inherent politicization of their letter—a facet of a broader political agenda.

Should our government fail to grasp the necessity of a resolute political response, we face significant peril. While Mr. Sunak has thus far staunchly supported Israel, his approach, rooted in procedural adherence, overlooks the essence of politics—its role in supplementing procedural mechanisms.

At any given moment, governments face numerous potential breaches of international law, just as they do with domestic law. Sometimes, a government consciously assumes this risk. Take, for instance, the case of David Cameron during his tenure as prime minister, when he openly defied a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights regarding the denial of voting rights to prisoners, maintaining our sovereignty over such matters from 2005 to 2018.

While government lawyers play a crucial role in providing guidance, their counsel remains advisory—ultimately, the decision rests with elected officials, not legal advisors. Moreover, legal advice is not infallible; it can be flawed both in its interpretation of the law and its strategic implications.

A concerning trend seems to be emerging, suggesting that disregarding legal advice constitutes an unlawful act in itself. Yet, ministers, accountable to the electorate, must exercise their judgment. Presently, amidst debates over potential breaches of international law in arms sales to Israel, the foundation upon which such arguments rest appears alarmingly fragile.

The Foreign Office's legal advice, largely unseen by those invoking it, purportedly suggests that continuing arms sales to Israel while it faces allegations of breaching international law, including genocide, could implicate the UK. However, no court has ruled on Israel's guilt, rendering this advice speculative.

Any responsible government must consider such advice. However, it also has a moral obligation to weigh broader considerations. Does the UK itself believe Israel is committing genocide or other war crimes? Would severing ties affect our national security, considering the intelligence cooperation and mutual benefits derived from our relationship?

The arms trade with Israel, though modest in scale, fosters significant collaboration and trust, particularly in intelligence sharing—a vital component in combating terrorism. Disrupting this relationship could undermine not only our strategic interests but also erode trust with other allies who rely on our steadfastness.

Thus, while legal advice informs decision-making, a government's duty extends beyond legalistic considerations to encompass broader strategic imperatives and moral obligations to maintain stability, security, and trust in international relations.

Please note that my knowledge cut-off date is January 2022, and I cannot provide real-time information.

In times past, it was Britain and the United States that grasped this inherent paradox most keenly among Western nations. However, in contemporary times, this understanding seems to be waning. Instead, it is the civilizations of Ukraine and Israel that confront this harsh reality head-on every single day. Rather than treating them as outcasts, they should serve as models for us all.

In conclusion, as we navigate the complexities of modern geopolitics and the ethical dilemmas they entail, it is imperative to heed the lessons offered by nations like Ukraine and Israel. Their resilience in the face of adversity and their unwavering commitment to defending their sovereignty underscore the importance of confronting harsh realities with courage and determination. Rather than relegating them to the sidelines, we should embrace them as exemplars of steadfastness and resolve in the pursuit of peace and security. By doing so, we can strive to uphold the values of freedom, justice, and resilience that define the essence of Western civilization.