Israel refuses to send representative in second international court case

Unlike the genocide case, a ruling in the ‘occupation case’ would be nonbinding.

By JNS

Israel has decided not to send a representative to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, aka the “World Court,” for a hearing on Monday regarding the legality of Israel’s “occupation” of Judea and Samaria, commonly known as the West Bank.

The decision was made late last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi. Also at the meeting was British law professor Malcolm Shaw, who represented Israel in the genocide case.

On Dec. 30, 2022, a U.N. General Assembly resolution, passed by 87-26, asked the court to issue an advisory opinion on the “legal consequences” of Israel’s “ongoing violation” of “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” and “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”

The General Assembly also asked the court to judge alleged actions Israel took to alter “the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Israeli officials sharply criticized the U.N. resolution, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “disgraceful. …The Jewish people is not occupying its land and is not occupying its eternal capital Jerusalem. No U.N. resolution can distort this historical truth.”

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Unlike the genocide case, in which South Africa asked the ICJ to issue a ruling that Israel immediately suspend its war against Hamas while the court decided whether Israel had violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention, a ruling in the “occupation case” would be nonbinding.

Still, there are dangers, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) CEO Jonathan Turner told JNS.

The PLO delegation to the U.N. and its supporters want the ICJ to rule that Israel is occupying Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, areas captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, even though it left the Gaza Strip in 2005, he said.

“The verdict won’t be legally binding but a lot of people will regard it as authoritative and treat it as if it were an accurate statement of the law. It will be quite difficult to displace it in anything but the most friendly tribunals,” said Turner, who was the principal author of a Sept. 29 memorandum submitted by UKLFI and the European Leadership Network to the court challenging the allegations against Israel.

An adverse verdict might also impact the actions of the International Criminal Court, said Turner. In March 2021, the ICC announced its intention to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes, but it has been slow to act on that decision, he added.

Although there is no direct link between the two courts, should the ICJ case go against Israel it may spur the ICC to step up its own investigation. “It will make it more difficult for the [ICC] prosecutor to say that [pursuing Israel] is not a priority, that there are complications and so on,” said Turner.

The International Court of Justice is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is meant to settle disputes between states. Its advisory opinions are often used as sources of international law.