The National Interest Foundation Newsletter
Issue 83, February 11, 2021
Welcome to our NIF Newsletter. In this week’s headlines: The International Criminal Court rules it has the jurisdiction to investigate war crimes committed by Israel, the second impeachment trial in the United States Senate against former President Trump begins, President Biden ends military aid for the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen and reverses the previous administration’s Houthi terror designation, and the criminal corruption trial against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumes.
International Criminal Court Ruling
The International Criminal Court Rules It Has the Jurisdiction to Investigate War Crimes Committed by Israel
This past week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that it has the jurisdiction to investigate war crimes and atrocities committed by Israel in the illegally-occupied Palestinian territories. The Palestinians formally joined the ICC in 2015 and have asked the court to examine Israel’s actions during its 2014 assault on the besieged Gaza Strip as well as their continued illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. Back in 2019, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that there was a basis to open a probe into Israeli military actions and settlement activity, but had asked the court to determine whether there was territorial jurisdiction before proceeding. The international community widely views the Israeli settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to the peace process. Global rights groups welcomed the landmark decision, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressing that it “finally offers victims of serious crimes some real hope for justice after a half century of impunity.” Meanwhile, embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who is also currently facing a serious criminal corruption trial – controversially stated that he intends to ask dozens of allies to “discreetly” pressure Bensouda against opening the potential war crimes investigation.
Second Trump Impeachment Trial in the Senate
The unprecedented second impeachment trial in the United States Senate against former President Trump officially began this week on Tuesday. Last month, the House of Representatives approved an article of impeachment charging Trump with inciting the January 6th assault on the United States Capitol by a 232-197 margin – with 10 Republicans joining all of the lower chamber’s Democrats in voting to impeach. Now, the 45th president faces judgement in the upper chamber of Congress, where Senators will be tasked with voting to acquit or convict him. Since the United States Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, at least 17 of the latter would need to find Trump guilty in order for him to be convicted by the required two-thirds majority. Most impartial analysts contend that this is extremely unlikely to happen, however it remains to be seen what effect a potential expected acquittal will have on the future of the Republican Party and its electoral base.
Biden Administration’s Actions in Yemen
President Biden Ends Military Aid for the Saudi-Led War in Yemen and Reverses the Previous Administration’s Houthi Terror Designation
President Biden officially announced in recent days that he would be ending U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led offensive in Yemen. This move came in the aftermath of his decision to reverse the previous Trump administration’s terrorist designation against Yemen’s Houthis for humanitarian reasons. Over 110,000 people have died in the ongoing Yemeni conflict, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have played a key role in the loss of life through an indiscriminate bombing campaign. Successive American administrations under Presidents Obama and Trump actively supported the offensive against Yemen by supplying Saudi Arabia and the UAE with weapons. Now, President Biden has reversed these policies, and is working toward a diplomatic solution to end the conflict. Biden called the war in Yemen a “humanitarian catastrophe” and pledged to work with the relevant parties to bring the conflict to an end.
Netanyahu’s Criminal Corruption Trial Resumes
The high-profile criminal corruption trial against sitting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumed this week, a mere month and a half before yet another national election on March 23rd – Israel’s fourth election in two years. Netanyahu briefly appeared in a Jerusalem courtroom on Monday to formally respond to the charges. He faces three different cases related to fraud, breach of trust, and bribery, including: seeking regulatory benefits for media tycoons in exchange for positive coverage, colluding with them to publish favorable stories about him while smearing his political opponents, and accepting lavish gifts from supporters. During the proceedings, chants from dozens of anti-Netanyahu demonstrators gathered outside the building could be heard inside the courtroom. Many have been protesting for months, calling on him to resign over the serious nature of the criminal charges. Over the past two years, Israel has been immersed in a major political crisis whereby attempts to form a coalition government have repeatedly broken down, resulting in the upcoming March election.