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'We look to our friends to stand with us'

Lapid to world leaders: Stop Palestinian push to refer conflict to The Hague

Ahead of December vote in UN General Assembly, PM writes to over 50 countries requesting that they pressure PA to give up campaign

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Yair Lapid sends a letter to over 50 nations asking them to pressure the PA to abandon its drive to refer the conflict to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (PMO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid sends a letter to over 50 nations asking them to pressure the PA to abandon its drive to refer the conflict to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (PMO)

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid asked dozens of world leaders on Monday to dissuade the Palestinians from moving forward in their effort to refer the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the International Court of Justice.

In a letter sent to more than 50 countries, Lapid called the Palestinian campaign, which included a United Nations committee vote earlier this month, “a concerted effort to single out Israel, to discredit our legitimate security concerns, and to delegitimize our very existence.”

The November 11 resolution, titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories,” passed the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee with 98 in favor, 17 opposed and 52 abstentions.

The resolution requests that The Hague-based ICJ “render urgently an advisory opinion” on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”

It will come to a vote in the General Assembly plenary at some point in December.

“I urge your country to exercise your influence on the Palestinian Authority so that they refrain from promoting this dangerous move at the General Assembly,” Lapid wrote. “If the Palestinians continue to ignore these requests and this resolution is brought to a vote in December, I hope and expect that your country will vote against it and voice your clear concerns regarding its dangerous ramifications.”

“We look to our friends to stand with us,” he added.

Illustrative: A session of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, December 11, 2019. (Peter Dejong/AP)

The missive was sent to European partners, including the United Kingdom, France, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Georgia, and Latvia.

Further afield, the leaders of Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, and Vietnam also received the letter.

Among the countries that voted against the UN resolution were Israel, Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, several Pacific island nations and the United States.

Many European countries abstained.

Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates voted in favor.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid heads a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on November 20, 2022. (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

“The Palestinians want to replace negotiations with unilateral steps. They are again using the United Nations to attack Israel,” Lapid charged after the resolution passed.

In Monday’s letter, he used similar language, arguing that bringing the conflict before the ICJ contradicts the principle of direct negotiations. It also “will only play into the hands of extremists, further polarize the parties, and undermine the positive work that has been done over the past few years,” he wrote.

The premier laid out the major Middle East initiatives in which Israel has been involved in recent years, including the Abraham Accords, the Negev Summit, and the maritime boundary deal with Lebanon. “All these achievements were reached through negotiations between the relevant parties — the only proven way to attain lasting peace in our region,” he wrote.

The UN General Assembly Fourth Committee votes on measures addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at UN headquarters in New York on Friday, November 11, 2022. (AP/Jeenah Moon)

The UN resolution also called for an investigation into Israeli measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and said Israel has adopted “discriminatory legislation and measures.”

The resolution asks the court to weigh in on the conflict in accordance with international law and the UN charter. The court, a UN organ, is separate from the International Criminal Court, which is also in The Hague.

The ICJ last issued an advisory opinion on the conflict in 2004.

 

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan blasted the measure at the committee hearing, calling it part of a “long line of anti-Israel resolutions.”

“The only purpose is to demonize Israel and exempt the Palestinians from responsibility,” Erdan said, adding that the resolution was “destroying any hope for a resolution.”

The Palestinian delegation to the UN said in response to the resolution, “Our people deserve freedom. Our people are entitled to freedom.”

The United States representative to the committee, Richard Mills, expressed “serious concerns” about the resolution, saying it would “magnify distrust” surrounding the conflict.

“There are no shortcuts to a two-state solution,” he said.

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