Jerusalem strongly condemned a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling for an opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on legal consequences of Israel’s so-called occupation of Palestinian territories.
By Erin Viner
“The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land nor occupiers in our eternal capital Jerusalem and no UN resolution can distort that historical truth,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted in a video message, adding that Israel was not bound by the “despicable decision.”
The 193-member UNGA on Friday asked the ICJ to provide an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s presence in the disputed territories regarding “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”
“Just like the hundreds of distorted UN General Assembly resolutions against Israel over the years, today’s disgraceful resolution will not obligate the Government of Israel,” insisted Netanyahu.
Israel captured most of the areas disputed by the Palestinians in the 1967 Six Day War, when it conquered the east side of a then-divided Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank from Jordan; in addition to the Golan Heights from Syria and Gaza from Egypt.
The Hague-based ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the top UN court dealing with disputes between states. While its rulings are considered binding, the ICJ has no power to enforce them.
The measure passed 87 in favor, 26 including Israel and the United States against, with 53 abstentions.
“No international body can decide that the Jewish people are ‘occupiers’ in their own homeland. Any decision from a judicial body which receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN is completely illegitimate,” stressed Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan ahead of the vote.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid – who was replaced last Thursday by Benjamin Netanyahu – last month sent a letter to more than 50 heads of state, urging them to exert their influence to oppose the saying that bringing the matter to the court would “only play into the hands of extremists.”
In his Saturday statement, Netanyahu revealed that he had also appealed to world leaders for support against the measure in a joint effort with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Ambassador Erdan and the personnel at the Foreign Ministry.
“We have achieved something important,” he said, pointing out that the November resolution passed by “an absolute majority,” whereas, “after our intervention, 11 countries changed how they voted and as a result there has been a turnaround: the countries that supported the Palestinian initiative were a minority of UN members and those that did not support the Palestinians were a majority of UN member states.”
The Israeli Premier further vowed, “We will continue to fight for the truth.”
Palestinians predictably welcomed the UN measure.
“The time has come for Israel to be a state subject to law, and to be held accountable for its ongoing crimes against our people,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian leader slammed the new Israeli government, claiming that its “motto is extremism and apartheid.”
An official with the Islamist terror group that controls Gaza, Basem Naim, said marks “an important step toward confining and isolating the state of occupation (Israel).”
The Friday vote presents a challenge for the Israeli leader, who returned to office 29 December 2022 at the head of a government which has set settlement expansion as a priority and includes members advocating formal annexation of the disputed territories. Netanyahu, however, has given no indication of any imminent steps to annex the settlements, a move that would likely shake relations with Israel’s Western and Arab allies.
Noting the ICJ vote came just one day after the Netanyahu government was sworn in, Palestinian UN Envoy Riyad Mansour told the UNGA, “We trust that, regardless of your vote today, if you believe in international law and peace, you will uphold the opinion of the International Court of Justice when delivered and you will stand up to this Israeli government right now.”
The ICJ last intervened in the conflict in 2004 by ruling that Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank was illegal, The security fence was built to prevent Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli citizens during the Second Intifada, September 2000 – February 2005. Suicide bombings in Israel emanating from the West Bank dropped from 73 between 2000 to July 2003 to 12 between August 2003 and the end of 2006, upon completion of the first continuous portion of the fence.