Palestinian protestor waves a flag in the West Bank. Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva decided ten days ago to open an investigation into a Palestinian complaint that claims Israel is promoting apartheid policies in the West Bank, Israeli foreign ministry officials tell me.

Why it matters: The decision came several days before the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) took a step toward opening an investigation against Israel for alleged war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza. A determination about Israeli policies by the UN CERD will be deemed authoritative by international bodies such as the ICC.

The backdrop: In 2014, the Palestinian Authority joined the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Israel is also party to. In April 2018, the Palestinians filed an official complaint against Israel to the UN committee and claimed Israeli policies in the West Bank are similar to apartheid in South Africa.

  • Israeli officials told me that right after the Palestinians joined the convention in 2014, Israel notified the UN committee that it doesn’t recognize their membership.
  • Therefore, Israeli officials say that when the Palestinian complaint reached the committee a year and a half ago, its members didn’t know whether they had jurisdiction to discuss it.

Between the lines: The Palestinian complaint was the first time ever that state or a state-like entity filed a complaint against another a member of the convention.

  • Israeli officials told me that in the 1980s, Syria sought to file a complaint against Israel, but that it was rejected by the committee because Syria didn’t recognize Israel.

Israeli foreign ministry officials told me the committee asked the UN legal adviser in New York for his legal opinion on whether it has jurisdiction to discuss the Palestinian complaint due to this unique situation.

  • Several months later, the UN legal adviser presented an opinion arguing that because Israel doesn’t recognize the Palestinians as being a party to the convention, the committee doesn’t have jurisdiction and the complaint must be rejected.
  • Israeli foreign ministry officials told me the committee disregarded the opinion of the UN legal adviser and decided on Dec. 12 that it has jurisdiction to investigate the Palestinian complaint.

What’s next: The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will now begin a process of conciliation between Israel and the Palestinians and invite both sides for a hearing. At the end of the process, the committee will determine whether the Palestinian complaint was warranted and issue recommendations.  

  • Israel still hasn’t decided whether it will cooperate with the proceedings, but Israeli officials said that it most likely will not.
  • The Israeli officials told me: “It looks like a predetermined result and we are not sure there is any point in taking part in such a process."

Go deeper: International Criminal Court moves closer to investigation of Israel

Go deeper

Nationalism and authoritarianism threaten the internet's universality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Governments around the world, prompted by nationalism, authoritarianism and other forces, are threatening the notion of a single, universal computer network — long the defining characteristic of the internet.

The big picture: Most countries want the internet and the economic and cultural benefits that come with it. Increasingly, though, they want to add their own rules — the internet with an asterisk, if you will. The question is just how many local rules you can make before the network's universality disappears.

The Democratic fight to shape Biden's climate policy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Left-wing climate activists don't want Joe Biden getting advice from people with credentials they don't like — and they're increasingly going public with their campaign.

Why it matters: Nobody is confusing Biden with President Trump, and his climate platform goes much further than anything contemplated in the Obama years.

33 mins ago - Sports

Factions form with college football season in the balance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With college football on the brink, Monday saw an outpouring of support for playing a fall season from numerous parties, including President Trump, Ohio State coach Ryan Day and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

Yes, but: Monday also saw the Mountain West Conference become the second FBS league to postpone fall sports, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 are expected to make the same decision as early as this morning.