PA asks top UN court to order removal of American embassy from Jerusalem
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PA asks top UN court to order removal of American embassy from Jerusalem

Filing of case at ICJ comes after recent threats by Abbas to pursue grievances with US, Israel at international courts

View of the new site of the US Embassy in Jerusalem ahead of its inauguration, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the new site of the US Embassy in Jerusalem ahead of its inauguration, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority filed a case Friday with the United Nations’ highest court asking its judges to order Washington to remove the recently relocated US embassy from Jerusalem.

The move announced by the Hague-based International Court of Justice comes against a backdrop of deeply strained ties between Washington and the Palestinians, in part because of the Trump Administration’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in May. The Palestinian Authority broke off contact with the US after the Jerusalem announcement.

The court said that the Palestinians’ case asks its judges “to order the United States of America to withdraw the diplomatic mission from the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Cases at the court can take years to complete. Its decisions are final and legally binding, but are not always adhered to. No date was immediately set for hearings.

The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, seat of the International Court of Justice (Public Domain/Wikipedia)

The ICJ is the UN’s body for settling disputes between states, whereas the International Criminal Court is used as war crimes tribunal. While the Palestinians have appealed to the ICC several times, they have rarely taken disputes to the ICJ.

The last ICJ ruling that affected Israel was a 2004 verdict against the construction of the West Bank security barrier. Earlier this month, Israel participated in a debate at the ICJ for the first time in more than half a century, in what Israeli officials described as an effort to get the Jewish state more involved in matters of international law that have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US President Donald Trump announced his decision on Jerusalem in December, triggering a joyous reaction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist government. The move infuriated the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, as their capital.

Trump is trying to facilitate the “deal of the century” between the Israelis and Palestinians and bring the two parties back to the negotiating table for the first time since 2014.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has halted ties with the Trump administration and declared it unfit to remain in its role as the sole mediator in peace talks.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

Earlier this month, Abbas said he would go to the ICJ over the planned razing of Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.

Palestinians and the international community have vociferously protested Israel’s plans to demolish the village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, and move its residents to another site.

The state says the structures, mostly makeshift shacks and tents, were built without permits and pose a threat to the village residents because of their proximity to a highway.

Abbas also said at the time he would go to the ICC and ICJ over what he claimed was evidence that Israel planned to allow Jewish prayer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Israeli officials have repeatedly vowed to not disturb the Temple Mount’s status quo, which forbids Jewish prayer there. Rumors of Jewish prayer being allowed have in the past sparked widespread violence.

The PA leader also indicated he would sue the US at the ICJ over its Jerusalem decisions and the slashing of funds for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, according to a statement from the PLO Executive Committee after a meeting of the body earlier this month.

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