Israel tells ICJ it lacks authority to debate conflict, says talks are only solution

Official reponse to court’s probe of the Palestinian conflict comes despite government’s previous refusal to cooperate

File: This photo shows an exterior view of the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands on February. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
File: This photo shows an exterior view of the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands on February. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Israel this week submitted a formal opinion to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, stating that it has no authority to conduct its probe into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a Thursday report.

Jerusalem said that the court was not the place to adjudicate the conflict, and that instead direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were needed, the unsourced Kan news report said.

The National Security Council said in response to the Kan report that it along with the Foreign Ministry were working to convince friendly countries to submit opinions to the ICJ to back Israel’s stance.

“Israel’s position is that the process conducted has no authority and that all disputes with the PA should be resolved in negotiations between the sides,” the council said.

“We will continue to fight the lies of the Palestinians and delegitimization attempts against Israel,” said Foreign Ministry Eli Cohen. “I thank our friends around the world who submitted positions to the court and to most of the member states of the United Nations, which from the start did not lend a hand and did not support the Palestinian initiative that seeks to abuse the International Court of Justice in The Hague in order to promote a unilateral agenda against Israel.”

Kan noted that the official response to the ICJ contradicted declared government policy that it would not cooperate with The Hague, as well as the fact that the current hardline, right-wing coalition is uninterested in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Under pressure from Jerusalem, the United States also submitted a response to The Hague backing Israel’s position, the report said.

In February, the court announced a timeline for the start of the probe, setting a July 25 deadline for submitting written statements in the case, and an October deadline for comments on those statements, after receiving the UN General Assembly’s formal request to weigh in on the conflict.

The ICJ is the top United Nations court for mediating disputes between countries. Its rulings influence public opinion and legal processes but it has no enforcement mechanism. The court is separate from the International Criminal Court, which is also in The Hague.

File: The United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee votes on measures addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the United Nations in New York, November 11, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The UN General Assembly in December passed a resolution pushed by the Palestinians asking the court for an “advisory opinion” on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.” It also called for an investigation into Israeli measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and charged that Israel has adopted “discriminatory legislation and measures.”

The General Assembly made the request to the court after the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry recommended that it do so. The latter panel is overwhelmingly critical of the Jewish state and its reports almost entirely ignore Palestinian terrorism and violence and largely place the blame on Israel for the conflict.

Israel sanctioned the Palestinians in response to their efforts to launch the probe, including by withholding funding from the Palestinian Authority. The retaliatory measures sparked widespread international blowback.

The court last issued an advisory opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2004 when the General Assembly asked it to rule on the legality of the West Bank security barrier. The court ruled that the barrier Israel built was “contrary to international law” and called on the country to immediately halt construction.

Israel ignored the decision, arguing that the barrier was a security measure meant to prevent Palestinian attackers from reaching Israeli cities. The Palestinians have said the structure was an Israeli land grab because of its route through East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.

The UN has a long history of passing resolutions against Israel, which has accused the world body of bias, together with the US. Israel has also accused the Palestinians, who have nonmember observer state status at the UN, of trying to use the world body to circumvent peace negotiations and impose a settlement.

Israel argues the investigations are part of a larger, discriminatory pattern at the UN. The General Assembly condemned Israel more than all other countries combined last year.

Luke Tress contributed to this report.

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