Ido Rosenzweig

Egypt Joining the Genocide Case: Potentially Good News?

Egypt announced yesterday its intention to join South Africa’s process against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the alleged crime of genocide. This move undoubtedly signals a deterioration in relations between Israel and Egypt, raising doubts about Egypt’s relevance as a significant player in mediating deals for the release of hostages.

The situation further complicates when considering Egypt’s refusal to cooperate with Israel in opening the Rafah crossing and its refusal to transfer humanitarian aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing as long as the IDF controls the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing. This behavior significantly diminishes the ability to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, a capability also impacted by Hamas’ recent attacks on Kerem Shalom.

Another development is South Africa’s renewed (fourth) request to the ICJ to issue provisional measures against Israel, particularly to order the cease of hostilities in Rafah. While previous requests were partially accepted (one request was completely rejected) — the ICJ did not instruct Israel to cease hostilities but did direct it, among other things, to adhere to its commitments in accordance with the Genocide Convention, act against incitement to genocide, and allow and even ensure the entry of humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip.

I find it hard to believe that this time the ICJ will accept South Africa’s request and issue a provisional measure regarding a cessation of hostilities, either overall or specifically in Rafah, for two reasons: firstly, currently, Israel’s operation in Rafah is very limited and minor and cannot justify such an order. Secondly, similar to previous decisions, the ICJ is careful not to exceed its jurisdiction, which is based on the Genocide Convention and does not directly address issues of the laws of war. On the other hand, it can reasonably be expected that the ICJ will again address the significant issue of sufficient humanitarian assistance.

Immediately after reading the ICJ’s initial decision regarding provisional measures, I argued that one of the important questions for the implementation of the decisions would be what would be considered a “sufficient amount” of humanitarian aid. Since the ICJ considers statements from various UN entities such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), I recommended that the Israeli Government cooperate with these entities to demonstrate that the quantity and quality of humanitarian aid entering Gaza meet international law requirements and the Court’s requirements. I still believe that Israel and the IDF need to expand their cooperation and reduce clashes and confrontations with UN humanitarian entities.

In this context, Egypt’s joining of the proceedings against Israel in the ICJ is not just negative. In fact, under certain circumstances, it can also benefit Israel. When a State joins an existing process, it becomes a party to the proceedings and, consequently, a relevant player in the ICJ’s decisions regarding provisional measures. Therefore, it is entirely possible for a situation to arise in which the ICJ issues provisional measures instructing Egypt to open the Rafah crossing and allow the transfer of humanitarian aid through Kerem Shalom.

Moreover, the Court could instruct Egypt to allow the movement of refugees through Rafah to Egypt based on Egypt’s commitments according to the Genocide Convention. Such a move, especially if implemented by Egypt, could be a game-changer not only for the uninvolved civilian population in Gaza, but also for the IDF’s ability to operate in Rafah and hopefully bring us significantly closer to the ultimate goal of releasing the hostages.

About the Author
Dr. Ido Rosenzweig is the co-founder and chairman of ALMA - Association for the Promotion of International Humanitarian Law, and the Director of Research (Terrorism, Belligerency, and cyber) at the Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions in the University of Haifa [Photo by Flash90]
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