Will the war in Gaza become a breaking point for the rules-based international order?

By AT.COM

As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognizes its prima facie jurisdiction to investigate Israel for carrying out genocide in Gaza, also on trial is the so-called ‘rules-based international order’.

This global set of rules, norms and institutions – the ICJ itself being one – was established by the victors of World War II to manage relations between states based on shared principles of human rights and international law. The intention was to prevent conflict and ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe or anything like it would never happen again. Many saw still greater hope in this order during the era of US unipolarity that followed the Cold War.

However the ICJ case eventually resolves, the rules and institutions comprising the rules-based international order are today being undermined by the very countries that created the system.

But with Israel’s military bombardment of Gaza, this order is facing perhaps its most daunting and most stubborn challenge – global perceptions of hypocrisy.

However the ICJ case eventually resolves, the rules and institutions comprising the rules-based international order are today being undermined by the very countries that created the system.

Meanwhile, Palestinians and their supporters are the ones pushing for these institutions to call out double standards by Israel’s allies and hold them to account. This has become a defining moment for the future of the current international settlement.

The international order under US unipolarity 

Today’s international order has been integral to the global projection of Western engagement and power for decades. Military interventions, such as in Iraq in 2003, or more recently defending Ukraine against Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, were driven by realpolitik calculations but legitimized through a defence of human rights, democracy and international law.

After the attacks on 11 September 2001, at the peak of US unipolarity, President George W Bush infamously said ‘either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.’ The world was thus divided into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ revealing the ideological edifice through which US military and economic prowess and expansion were justified.

As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognizes its prima facie jurisdiction to investigate Israel for carrying out genocide in Gaza, also on trial is the so-called ‘rules-based international order’.

This global set of rules, norms and institutions – the ICJ itself being one – was established by the victors of World War II to manage relations between states based on shared principles of human rights and international law. The intention was to prevent conflict and ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe or anything like it would never happen again. Many saw still greater hope in this order during the era of US unipolarity that followed the Cold War.

However the ICJ case eventually resolves, the rules and institutions comprising the rules-based international order are today being undermined by the very countries that created the system.

But with Israel’s military bombardment of Gaza, this order is facing perhaps its most daunting and most stubborn challenge – global perceptions of hypocrisy.

However the ICJ case eventually resolves, the rules and institutions comprising the rules-based international order are today being undermined by the very countries that created the system.

Meanwhile, Palestinians and their supporters are the ones pushing for these institutions to call out double standards by Israel’s allies and hold them to account. This has become a defining moment for the future of the current international settlement.

The international order under US unipolarity 

Today’s international order has been integral to the global projection of Western engagement and power for decades. Military interventions, such as in Iraq in 2003, or more recently defending Ukraine against Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, were driven by realpolitik calculations but legitimized through a defence of human rights, democracy and international law.

After the attacks on 11 September 2001, at the peak of US unipolarity, President George W Bush infamously said ‘either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.’ The world was thus divided into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ revealing the ideological edifice through which US military and economic prowess and expansion were justified.

Younger generations are particularly dismayed, their outrage exacerbated by viral videos, including those showing Israeli soldiers singing and dancing amidst the destruction in Gaza. The Israeli army says they are isolated cases and are investigating.

There is popular support for a ceasefire, even in countries most supportive of Israel. In the UK, a survey by YouGov found that 71 per cent of respondents believed that their government definitely or probably should have voted for a ceasefire at the UN.

With growing global popular support for making Palestinian rights equal to Israelis’, Western leaders are facing the prospect of greater foreign and domestic repercussions for supporting Israel, including at the ballot box, with elections due to be held in both the US and UK this year.

For generations, the rules-based international order has been woefully inadequate in dealing justly with the Middle East’s most important and long-standing conflict.

If it publicly fails once again, by proving incapable of agreeing an end to the unprecedented bloodshed in Gaza, it will further undermine the world’s faith in the institutions that were built to serve it, and possibly contribute to its complete unravelling. Western leaders should think very hard about this historic moment and what might come next.

Dr Renad Mansour is Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme; Project Director, Iraq Initiative

Read Original article on Chatham House

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