Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is counting upon the diplomatic route against the International Criminal Court’s decision to investigate war crimes alleged to have been committed by his country. Israel will not be short of supporters. Predictably, the US has already clarified its “complete opposition to the decision of the prosecutor” to investigate war crimes allegations. Germany, Hungary, Uganda, Australia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Austria, and Brazil have also expressed their opposition to the ICC decision, furthering Israel’s claims of political manipulation at The Hague.
For all the media frenzy over the ICC decision, the impending investigations do not appear to be a deterrent for Israel’s ongoing war crimes schedule. Settlement expansion is one of the areas that international law deems to be a war crime, yet Israel is still granting permits for further construction projects. In 2020, as Palestinians faced additional hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic, Israel reneged on its supposedly humanitarian agenda and duly displaced many, and the colonial land grab continued unabated.
To find willing diplomatic accomplices ready to distort a legitimate and much-needed criminal investigation into allegations that the ICC decision is a result of political manipulation is easy for Israel. Its diplomatic outreach and “self-defence/security” narrative have been normalised by the international community, and it has strong allies in that regard, including those countries with a similar settler-colonial background, such as Australia, Canada, and, of course, the US.Under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has become an Israeli ally rather swiftly. A Brazilian delegation visited Israel recently to discuss collaboration over the Covid-19 vaccines currently undergoing clinical trials. Quarantine was waived for the delegation, even as Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi stated that both countries were “working together to expand cooperation… in the fight against the virus.”
During a press conference marking the Brazilians’ visit, Ashkenazi thanked his counterpart, Ernesto Araujo, for Brazil’s support in Israel’s opposition to the ICC war crimes investigation. “It is a decision that harms international law and distances the possibility to advance negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Ashkenazi claimed. He did not explain how trying to hold a country to account for breaking the law “harms” the law.
Neither Netanyahu nor Bolsonaro are exemplary when it comes to upholding international law. Both follow politics of violence and subjugate indigenous populations. For Bolsonaro to align himself completely with Israel’s violations is nothing out of the ordinary, considering his lauding of dictatorships, for example, and the adulation of the military.
In 2019, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is also a lawmaker in Brazil, spouted the Trump administration’s political line by rejecting the two-state compromise and mentioning the possibility of recognising Israel’s illegal settlement expansion and closing the Palestinian Embassy in Brazil. Such diplomacy might not hold now that Trump has left the White House and the US has returned to two-state diplomacy. However, Brazil under Bolsonaro will remain a staunch ally of Israel, with the possibility of extending its influence in a country where support for Palestine is not as far-reaching as that of Cuba, for example, and which also lacks the economic contribution which Chile enjoys from Palestinian exiles.
Even with the US opposing the ICC investigation, Israel will still find itself in need of allies who are not afraid to demonstrate their contempt for international law. All Netanyahu needs is more fabricated legitimacy for the impunity that already exists for Israel; nothing that well-placed diplomacy cannot achieve. Only the political aspect will be projected onto the ICC investigations because Israel, as its twisted narrative claims erroneously, is only ever acting in “self-defence”.