UN seeks court opinion on ‘violation’ of Palestinian rights
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN General Assembly has asked the UN’s highest judicial body to give its opinion on the legality of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The assembly Friday night voted by a large majority, but with over 50 abstentions, to bring one of the world’s longest-running and most sensitive disputes to the International Court of Justice, a motion promoted by the Palestinians and vehemently opposed by Israel.
The court’s rulings, while not binding, influence international opinion. She last addressed the conflict in 2004, when the Assembly asked her to investigate the legality of an Israeli-built separation wall.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour thanked the countries that supported the measure.
“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 it is presented,” Mansour said, urging countries to “stand back” against Israel . new, uncompromising government.
Israel did not speak at the congregation that voted during the Jewish Sabbath. Earlier in a written statement, Ambassador Gilad Erdan had described the measure as “outrageous”, the UN as “morally bankrupt and politicised” and any possible decision by the court as “completely illegitimate”.
Israel conquered the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians aspire to an independent state in all three areas.
Israel regards the West Bank as disputed territory and has built dozens of settlements, now home to about 500,000 Jewish settlers.
It also annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. Another 200,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem, which Israel considers neighborhoods of its capital. Palestinian residents of the city are systematically discriminated against, making it difficult for them to build new houses or expand existing ones.
The international community largely considers the settlements to be illegal. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive holy sites, is also not recognized internationally.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Two years later, the militant Hamas group took control of the area from the forces of internationally recognized President Mahmoud Abbas.
Friday’s resolution called on the International Court of Justice, commonly known as the World Court, to issue an advisory opinion on the legal ramifications
It also asked the court to consider the legal implications of Israel’s measures, which it said are “aimed at changing the demographic makeup, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.”
And it solicits an opinion on how all Israeli policies affect the legal status of its occupation, “and the legal ramifications of that status for all states and the United Nations.”
The vote was 87-26, with 53 abstentions. It followed the approval of the draft resolution in the assembly’s budget committee the previous Friday and in the special committee on politics and decolonization on November 11.
Israel lobbied extensively behind the scenes against the measure, condemning the assembly to a vote after the Sabbath began Friday night.
Before the vote, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid personally contacted about 60 world leaders, while figurehead President Isaac Herzog spoke to many of his counterparts, according to an Israeli diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing private diplomatic efforts .
The United Nations has a long history of passing resolutions critical of Israel, and Israel and the US accuse the world body of being unfairly biased.
Israel has accused the Palestinians, who have observer status at the United Nations, of trying to use the UN to bypass peace talks and push through a deal.
Palestinians say Israeli officials, particularly new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are not serious about seeking peace as they continue to expand settlements on occupied territories. The last round of substantive peace talks collapsed in 2009.
Ahead of the November 11 committee vote, Erdan told UN diplomats that adopting the resolution would destroy “any hope of reconciliation” with the Palestinians and perpetuate the conflict.
He warned that bringing the court “into a decades-old conflict just to dictate to the other side’s demands ensures many more years of stagnation” and provides the Palestinians with “the perfect excuse to continue boycotting the negotiating table to… continue the conflict”.
After that committee vote, Mansour said “our people have a right to freedom,” stressing that “nothing justifies supporting Israeli occupation and annexation, their displacement and dispossession of our people.”
The court is expected to gather opinions from dozens of countries before issuing its opinion in months. Israel has not said whether it will cooperate.
It is not the first time that the World Court has been asked to comment on the conflict.
In 2004, the court declared that a separation wall built by Israel “violated international law” and ordered Israel to stop construction immediately.
Israel said the barrier is a security measure designed to prevent Palestinian attackers from reaching Israeli cities. The Palestinians say the structure is an Israeli land grab because of its route through East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.
Israel has ignored the 2004 ruling, and Friday’s resolution calls on Israel to abide by halting construction of the wall and dismantling it. It said Israel should also make reparations for any damage caused by the construction of the wall “which has severely affected human rights” and the living conditions of the Palestinians.
The court’s request for an advisory opinion is part of a far-reaching resolution entitled “Israeli practices and settlement activities that adversely affect the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories.”
Associated Press journalists Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed.
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