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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

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.