Citing security, Israel scrambles to line up ‘no’ votes on Hague probe at UN

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Ahead of the upcoming UN General Assembly vote on whether to ask the International Court of Justice to weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an Israeli official says that the Palestinians “are trying to render Israel’s security presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal.”

Support for the resolution shows “contempt for and dismissal of Israeli security concerns,” continues the official.

The resolution, titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories,” requests that the Hague-based ICJ “render urgently an advisory opinion” on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”

The UNGA vote is not yet scheduled, but will occur between Friday and the end of the year.

The resolution passed the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee in November, with 98 supporting, 17 opposing, and 52 abstaining.

Israel “sees a chance to raise the number of countries opposed,” says the official, “but many factors influence that.”

Illustrated: A general view of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters, September 21, 2016. (AP/Jason DeCrow)

“We know that there is an automatic majority,” the official says. Israel is trying to get more “like-minded” countries to oppose the measure or at least abstain.

“I think a lot of countries didn’t see it as a constructive step,” the official continues. “Even if they don’t agree with our policies, they oppose this step.”

Israel has reached out to around 100 countries, including 60 that received letters from Prime Minister Yair Lapid. President Herzog has also called world leaders on the issue.

The Biden Administration has also been extremely helpful in advocating against the measure, says the official.

If the vote passes, the ICJ will present a schedule in the coming weeks for countries and NGOs to offer their legal positions. The 15-judge panel will likely offer their advisory opinion in one to two years.

“The Palestinians are trying to create activity in the international arena instead of focusing on the real challenges that we see on the ground,” says the official, pointing at attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

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