UN expected to hold vote asking international court to weigh in on Mideast conflict

Anti-Israel resolution calling for first such probe since 2004 expected to pass by a wide margin Friday; Israeli envoy to world body calls move ‘illegitimate’ and a ‘moral stain’

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

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 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)

NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly was expected to approve on Friday a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli “annexation.”

The UNGA in New York was scheduled to vote on the anti-Israel resolution after it passed a UN committee in November by a wide margin.

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

It also calls for an investigation into Israeli measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and says Israel has adopted “discriminatory legislation and measures.”

The resolution demands the court 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 denounced the UN for the resolution, calling it a “moral stain” on the world body. He has argued that the vote delegitimizes and demonizes Israel, including by referring to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews as the site of the ancient temples, and the third holiest site in Islam as the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Erdan will not be appearing at the vote because it is expected to take place after Shabbat starts. A US representative will vote against the resolution on behalf of Israel.

“No international body can decide that the Jewish people are ‘occupiers’ in their own homeland. Any decision from a judicial body which receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN is completely illegitimate,” Erdan said in a Friday statement. “The Palestinians have rejected every peace initiative while supporting and inciting terror. Instead of pushing the Palestinians to change, the UN is doing the opposite: helping them to harm the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East.

“The decision to hold a vote that deals with Israel on Shabbat is another example of the moral decay of the UN, which prevents Israel’s position from being heard in a vote whose results are predetermined,” he said.

Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour addresses a Palestinian solidarity meeting at the United Nations in New York on November 29, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Erdan had his term as UN envoy extended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in one of his first moves after returning to the premier’s office.

The resolution calling for ICJ guidance passed in the UN’s Fourth Committee vote last month by a margin of 98 in favor, 17 opposed and 52 abstentions.

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

Ukraine, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates voted in favor. Ukraine’s vote against Israel sparked a minor diplomatic spat between Jerusalem and Kyiv.

Israel has blasted the resolution as biased and dismissive of Israeli security concerns. Former prime minister Yair Lapid waged a diplomatic campaign to muster opposition to the move.

Israel’s new hardline government, sworn in on Thursday, is likely to further stoke tensions with the world body and international community.

The UN secretary-general’s office and the UN Human Rights Council did not respond to a request for comment on the new government and its policies toward the Palestinians.

The UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, congratulated Netanyahu on Thursday, said he will continue to work with the Israeli government, and stressed the UN’s commitment to a two-state solution.

Of Netanyahu’s coalition partners, none are on record supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians, some support annexing the West Bank without granting equal rights to Palestinians in those areas, and many also vehemently oppose coordination or strengthening the PA.

Netanyahu’s government is expected to entrench Israel’s control over the territory. His coalition deals included a vague commitment to annex the West Bank to Israel, a pledge to legalize dozens of unauthorized settlements, and the provision of large funds for road building and public transport in the West Bank.

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan and Judea and Samaria,” the government’s overall published agenda said. Judea and Samaria are the biblical names for the West Bank.

There is no specific mention of the Palestinians or the peace process in the guidelines, which say only that “the government will work to promote peace with all our neighbors while preserving Israel’s security, historical and national interests.”

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday called for an international boycott of Israel’s new government over its hardline, right-wing agenda, saying it poses “an existential threat to the Palestinian people.”

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