ELNET International Policy Conference 2023

The three-day ELNET Conference gave a platform to key policymakers to discuss a wide range of current critical issues.

ELNET International Plenary Conference 2023 (photo credit: ELNET)
ELNET International Plenary Conference 2023
(photo credit: ELNET)

Israel’s Legitimacy: Under Assault in the International Arena

How has Israel responded to accusations of violations of international law? In what way is Israel misunderstood by the United Nations? How can Israel counter its largely negative image in the media? These and other questions were the subject of the conference main plenary discussion entitled “Israel’s Legitimacy: Under Assault in the International Arena” held at ELNET’s Third International Policy Conference in Paris on Tuesday, May 9.

Participants in the panel included Israeli MK Danny Danon, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, its Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services, and former Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN; Amb. François Zimeray, Former French Ambassador for human rights; Lawyer to the ICJ; and  Edwin Shuker, VP of the Board of Deputies in the U.K. The panel was moderated by Catherine Perez-Shakdam, Head of Policy & Communication, ELNET UK.

In response to Perez-Shakdam’s question as to how Israel should respond to accusations of violating international law, Zimeray said that Israel, by virtue of its taking Adolf Eichmann, a German, from Argentina for trial in Israel in 1960 for his crimes against the Jewish people, is the country that truly invented international law. He added that while Israel’s legitimacy rests on its history, its blood and its tears, a good part of its legitimacy lies in an international consensus. 

MK Danon, whose account of his tenure at the UN, “In the Lion’s Den: Israel and the World,” was released last year, said that Israel is forced to deal with a diplomatic double standard. |” We have to push back the double standard,” he noted, likening the diplomatic battle to a marathon that will take years.

Shuker, who chairs the Board’s Communities and Education Division, was born in Baghdad and arrived in the United Kingdom with his family in 1971 as refugees. In response to Perez-Shakdam’s query about the media, he said, “We have to live with what we have. The Jewish people are the best marketing people in the world. We need to change and reshape the narrative.”

Constitutional controversies in Israel and Europe: comparative perspectives

How did the issue of judicial reform come about in Israel, and how can the controversy be remedied? What can Israel learn from the constitutional experiences of Poland, Hungary and the United Kingdom?

Matthijs Schussler, Executive Director of ELNET EU & NATO, hosted a discussion with Dr. Emanuel Navon, director of the ELNET office in Tel Aviv, Polish attorney and social activist Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram and Tom Watson, former deputy leader of the Labor Party and a member of the House of Lords.

Dr. Navon opened the discussion with a summary of the issue of judicial reform in Israel and traced the history of the Supreme Court from the early days of the State through the activist court introduced by Judge Aharon Barak in the mid-1990s.

Navon suggested that the current proposals in favor of judicial reform would replace one imbalance – that of the court’s activism – with another imbalance weighted in favor of the ruling coalition. He concluded by expressing the hope that the discussions being held at the President’s Residence moderated by President Isaac Herzog would prove successful.

Attorney Gregorczyk-Abram discussed the issue from the perspective of Poland and Hungary, and said that in those countries, attacks on the courts were the first step towards an authoritarian system. “It is tricky how fast it can happen,” she cautioned.

Lord Watson said that the tensions that Israel is currently experiencing occur in all liberal democracies. He added, “All constitutional change in all democracies needs to be handled with care.”

The three-day ELNET Conference gave a platform to key policymakers to discuss a wide range of current critical issues, including the aftermath of the Ukraine war, Israeli-Arab normalization, the threats posed by Russia and Iran, and many others