Failure to throw out genocide claims a ‘mark of disgrace’ on ICJ, Netanyahu declares

‘Like every country, Israel has the basic right to self-defense,’ prime minister says in statement; ‘antisemitic court’ seeks ‘the persecution of Jewish people,’ states Ben Gvir

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a video statement on January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a video statement on January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the International Court of Justice on Friday after it declined to throw out the genocide charges brought against Israel by South Africa, instead issuing an interim ruling that Jerusalem must take measures to prevent the commital of genocidal acts against Palestinians.

“Like every country, Israel has the basic right to self-defense. The Hague Tribunal rightly rejected the outrageous demand to deprive us of this right,” he said.

The court rejected South Africa’s demand that it order an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“But the very claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians is not just false, it is outrageous,” Netanyahu stated — arguing that the “the court’s willingness to discuss this at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations.”

Responding to a South African motion accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, the court on Friday declined to order Israel to halt its military operation but did issue a series of provisional measures. These include saying Israel must prevent the killing or injuring of Gazan innoncents, must prevent conditions calculated to wholly or partly destroy Gaza’s populace, and must prevent conditions intended to prevent births among Gazans.

“We are fighting a just war, and we will continue it until complete victory — until we defeat Hamas, return all our abductees and ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel,” Netanyahu declared.

In a separate English-language statement, Netanyahu added that “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering” and promised that because Israel’s war is against “terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians,” his government would “continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and to do our utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way.”

“On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I again pledge as prime minister of Israel — Never Again,” he added, promising to “continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.”

Following the ruling, Netanyahu instructed his cabinet to refrain from commenting on the matter until an official policy is formulated, an appeal which was swiftly ignored by several ministers.

According to national broadcaster Kan, Netanyahu — via National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi — instructed government ministers to hold off on any public statements before the release of an official government position on the matter.

Despite Netanyahu’s order, several ministers issued statements.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant condemned the ruling, saying Israel “does not need to be lectured on morality” while fighting Hamas in Gaza.

“The International Court of Justice in The Hague went above and beyond, when it granted South Africa’s antisemitic request to discuss the claim of genocide in Gaza, and now refuses to reject the petition outright,” he said in a statement.

“Those who seek justice, will not find it on the leather chairs of the court chambers in The Hague — they will find it in the Hamas tunnels in Gaza, where 136 hostages are held, and where those who murdered our children are hiding,” Gallant argued. “They will find it in the ‘Spirit of the IDF,’ a document that outlines the values and conduct of our moral and professional soldiers.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir also condemned the court.

“The decision of the antisemitic court in The Hague proves what was already known: This court does not seek justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people,” Ben Gvir, whose rhetoric was cited by South Africa as proof of its charges of genocide, declared in a statement.

“They were silent during the Holocaust and today they continue the hypocrisy and take it another step further,” he said, adding that “decisions that endanger the continued existence of the State of Israel must not be adhered to.”

The ICJ in its current iteration was founded in 1945.

Among the statements quoted at the ICJ during the case’s initial hearing was Ben Gvir’s assertion that “when we say that Hamas should be destroyed, it includes those who celebrate, those who support, and those who hand out candy — they’re all terrorists, and they should also be destroyed.”

Palestinians check the destruction following Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on December 12, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Israeli representatives at the ICJ have argued that “random” inflammatory comments of Israeli politicians did not reflect policy determined in the state bodies making war policy; and insisted that the massive harm to Palestinian civilians during the war was a result of Hamas’s widespread use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes, rather than genocidal intent.

The Foreign Ministry slammed the ruling as “a shameful exploitation of the Genocide Convention,” although it welcomed the court’s call for the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Israel Katz declared that “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering” and “exists independently of any ICJ proceedings, as does Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against the genocidal terrorists of Hamas.”

“I reiterate this today on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” he stated, echoing Netanyahu’s rhetoric.

The ICJ “should have rejected South Africa’s bogus petition outright,” weighed in Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, stating that the IDF “invests serious effort not to harm innocents.

“We do not need moral preaching or instructions to behave like a democratic and proper state, acting according to international law,” he said.

Following the ruling, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer lashed out at Hadash-Ta’al MK Ofer Cassif over his public support for the South African motion.

“His support has already led to a decision that will jeopardize Israel’s ability to act freely against terrorism,” Forer declared, pledging to continue his efforts to expel the lawmaker next week during a scheduled hearing on the matter in the Knesset.

In a tweet, Cassif appeared to welcome the ruling, writing that the court’s decision “casts a heavy moral stain on the Israeli government.”

On October 7, thousand of Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel from Gaza and killed some 1,200 people, the large majority of whom were civilians, while also committing severe atrocities including rape, torture and other crimes.

The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, at Kibbutz Kissufim, November 1, 2023. (Erik Marmour/Flash90)

They took hostage some 250 people, of whom 132 remain in captivity, although not all of them are alive. Israel subsequently declared war on Gaza with the goal of eliminating Hamas and its capability to threaten Israel’s security, and releasing the hostages. In this campaign, the Israel Defense Forces faces a situation in which Hamas has placed its fighters and constructed its military installations throughout Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, mosques and homes.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that 26,083 people have been killed since the start of its war with Israel, and another 64,487 people have been wounded.

The figures are unverified and are believed to include close to 10,000 Hamas operatives Israel said it has killed during fighting in the Strip, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

Reuters and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: