UN votes for global court to rule on Israeli occupation
The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution seeking an official legal opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the consequences of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Adopted on Friday, the measure was celebrated by Palestinian leaders as a first step toward accountability.
The resolution asks the ICJ to advise on the legal consequences arising from Israel’s ongoing "occupation, settlement and annexation" of the Palestinian territories, "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." The court should explain how specific Israeli policies and actions "affect the legal status of the occupation" and set out the legal consequences that could result – not just for Israel but for the UN and its members.
The resolution passed with the support of 87 countries. The 26 "no" votes included the US, Israel, UK, Germany, Italy, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another 53 countries abstained.
While the ICJ’s rulings are supposed to be binding, the absence of an enforcement mechanism means that even if it does rule against Tel Aviv, change is unlikely. In 2004, the ICJ ruled that the 'security wall’ Israel had constructed through the West Bank and East Jerusalem was illegal and amounted to de facto annexation of Palestinian land, demanding the structure be demolished and Palestinians be paid compensation. The UN General Assembly even passed a resolution demanding Israel comply with the ICJ’s decision. The wall still stands.
The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, dismissed Friday’s resolution – and by extension "any decision from a judicial body which receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN" - as "completely illegitimate." The country swore in a right-wing coalition government headed by its longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier this week.
The UN and its subsidiaries have issued dozens of resolutions condemning the illegality of the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories over the last several decades. Friday’s resolution had its origins in a UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry report from October, which hinted that Israeli policies may rise to the level of war crimes and require the attention of the ICJ.