Israel @ ICJ – Round Two

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For the second time in the last several months, the state of Israel is the subject of proceedings before the U.N.’s highest court.

This time, the 15-judge panel of the International Court of Justice in The Hague has been asked to review Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation … [of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem] … 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 petition seeks an advisory opinion regarding the legality of Israel’s activities in the territories.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and has since built settlements in the West Bank and steadily expanded them. Israel has long maintained that the territories are not “occupied” since they were captured from Jordan and Egypt during a war rather than from a sovereign Palestine. The U.N., however, sees things differently and has demanded that Israeli forces withdraw from the territories as the only way to secure peace.

More than 50 countries participated in the ICJ hearing. Israel did not participate, as Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of the underlying challenge.

But Israel did file papers with the ICJ pointing to the impropriety of the legal proceedings on these issues. Among other things, Israel cited numerous U.N. resolutions in addition to bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements that establish that the framework for resolving issues between Israel and the Palestinians should be political, not legal.

Israel also maintained that its governance in the territories is temporary — designed only to last until a political resolution is negotiated — and that the Palestinian leadership’s repeated rejection of comprehensive peace agreements has led to the lengthy duration of challenged Israeli rule in the territories.

There is merit to Israel’s position. The ICJ challenge to Israel’s military rule in the territories ignores express agreements between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve disagreements through direct negotiation on such issues as the permanent status of the territories, security arrangements, settlements and borders. The ICJ case — which seeks an advisory opinion that will not be able to address Israel’s fundamental security concerns — ignores the carefully negotiated agreements between the parties.

Israel’s sole defender at the ICJ was the United States. Every other participating country joined the chorus of accusers, with varying degrees of nastiness and self-righteous indignation.

With no Israel present to respond, the Israel-haters came out in full force. South Africa, for example — the leader of the first ICJ challenge to Israel, which seeks to label Israel’s defensive war in Gaza as genocide — accused Israel of perpetuating a “more extensive form” of apartheid in the territories than the apartheid that once existed in its own country.

And one of South Africa’s ambassadors invoked the blatantly antisemitic claim that Israel’s occupation “discriminates against and fragments all Palestinian people to ensure the maintenance of Israeli Jewish domination.”

The ICJ should dismiss the case and direct the parties to follow their negotiated agreements. We know that won’t happen. The U.N. court won’t be able to pass up the opportunity to skewer Israel on the international grill, even if they know their opinion will be of no legal consequence and wholly unenforceable.

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