Israel's outgoing int'l law chief: We repelled ‘cynical use’ of int’l law

Roy Schondorf's final message praised the units under his authority for having succeeded in fending off "cynical" uses of international law against Israel.

View of Israel's Justice Ministry, containing the Attorney-General's Office, in Jerusalem on March 20, 2018. (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
View of Israel's Justice Ministry, containing the Attorney-General's Office, in Jerusalem on March 20, 2018.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

In his final message to units under his authority, Roy Schondorf, the outgoing Justice Ministry deputy attorney-general for international affairs, said they had succeeded in combating “cynical” uses of international law against Israel.

The ministry had battled against “three attempts to open up cases against Israel before the International Criminal Court, with dozens of complaints filed” against top IDF and political officials, the message obtained by The Jerusalem Post said.

“We built a strong arm whose goal is to defend the State of Israel’s interests during international and foreign court proceedings. We established a sub-unit focusing on the laws of war whose job is to ensure the readiness of the legal adviser’s office... for emergency situations,” Schondorf said.

“We built a strong arm whose goal is to defend the State of Israel’s interests during international and foreign court proceedings. We established a sub-unit focusing on the laws of war whose job is to ensure the readiness of the legal adviser’s office... for emergency situations.”

Roy Schondorf

He said his staff had provided critical legal guidance to the IDF as well as political figures in multiple wars.

Further, his letter said that they had been deeply involved in combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in the legal and business fields.

 The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, January 16, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW) The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, January 16, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)

“These developments required a substantial change in how legal advice is given in international law,” the deputy attorney-general said.

The lead official on the legal battle

Schondorf was appointed to handle the threat of the 2009 UNHRC Goldstone Report, which led to the first attempt to bring Israel before the ICC.

Although the Foreign Ministry oversees the diplomatic aspects of relations with the court, Schondorf has been the lead official on the nuts and bolts of the legal fight for nearly a decade.

He was one of three finalists to become attorney-general and took up his post following extended service in the IDF International Law Division and receiving a doctorate in international law from New York University in New York City.

After these changes, “new organizations and methods of enforcement were developed to manage international law challenges” and at this point “there is almost no domestic law area which international law does not address,” he said.

As part of handling this increased workload and complexity, “we consolidated all of the units that dealt with international law into one broader division – which reduced tensions and overlapping work and created savings in resources,” the outgoing deputy attorney-general said.

And his department did much more than fend off war crimes charges.

Schondorf also cited their work in legal aspects of the Abraham Accords, involvement in negotiations with Russia for returning imprisoned Israeli Naama Issachar and for returning the body of Zechariah Baumel, held by Syria for decades.

He said the department was also involved in attempts to negotiate with Hamas to release two living Israeli prisoners and the remains of two other Israelis.

Moreover, he stated that his department had “significantly broadened how international law addresses new technologies” to make sure their use dovetails with Israeli interests.

Finally, he noted his staff representing Israel in international forums like the various bodies of the UN and in moving forward the process for Israelis to get a waiver from visa requirements for traveling to the US.

Schondorf has been replaced by Dr. Gilad Noam, who has worked closely under him since 2012 and was one of the lead coordinators with the ICC for the unit.