International Law, Not Terrorism, Must Be the New Paradigm | Opinion

At the time of this global COVID-19 pandemic, where thousands are unemployed and the medical system is in desperate need of support, the Palestinian Authority is prioritizing payments to those responsible for murder. Instead of purchasing test kits and ventilators, these murderers and their families are receiving salaries contingent upon the severity of their crimes—undoubtedly incentivizing a perpetual cycle of violence and terror. At the same time, Hamas maintains its own economic game, "setting the price" for Israeli citizens held captive in Gaza at the number of prisoners it deems fit and holding them as human shields alongside the civilians it purports to serve.

Both these cold-blooded financial systems exist at the same time that humanitarian aid pours into the hands of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, with weak, if existent, anti-terror clauses attached—offsetting, enabling and incentivizing the payments and/or rewards to those that take lives.

What must occur to alter the course of this perpetual cycle of violence, terror and violation of law and rights is a fundamental shift in the paradigm applied. Israel and the international community must transcend and move away from terms rooted in terror, and hold the violators accountable to the language and terms of international law and human rights.

In practice, what this means is that negotiations anywhere must not take place on the terms determined by genocidal terrorist regimes and their supporters, and that the price paid must conform to agreed-upon international standards. It means a system of "monetary for humanitarian," where only when the humanitarian needs of Israel are met does the cash flow.

Jerusalem, Israel
Jerusalem, Israel Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

For example, instead of allowing Hamas to set the negotiation terms, the international community must acknowledge that holding four Israeli citizens captive is a standing violation of international law, and humanitarian aid is therefore at risk of being embargoed if the Israelis are not returned and if the law is not upheld. The fact that one of the Israelis being held captive for six years nearly to this day—Hadar Goldin—was killed during an internationally brokered humanitarian ceasefire only further strengthens the international legal and moral argument. The concept of a "prisoner swap" prescribed by terrorist thought and rhetoric as the tool to use in such a scenario must be denounced; instead, international law must be upheld.

Similarly, the financial support—known as "pay-for-slay"—that the Palestinian Authority provides to terrorists, must cease, or their humanitarian aid and the provision of international aid by United Nations agencies must be limited. Announcements that Israel is now seizing these terrorists' salaries form a necessary first step. The international community also must make difficult choices of when to restrict aid in order to uphold international laws and human rights norms. If it fails to do this, these laws and norms risk losing their very meaning.

This new paradigm of international law, human rights and norms means that Israel too must move away from the old paradigms or prisoner swaps and cease allowing the "pay-for-slay" payments to take place. The global community and Israel together have the potential of leading by example, utilizing the language of rights and expecting consistency and reciprocity from the international community in return. Only then can the cycle of violence begin to unravel, and a renewed "world order" be built on a profound commitment to uphold, promote and protect human rights.

Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a member of Knesset for the Blue and White Party in Israel.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.