Sunday, May 26

ICJ Holds Last Day of Hearings on Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian Territories

The United Nations’ top court on Monday was hearing a final day of arguments on the legality of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories, proceedings that have added pressure to Israel at a time when attention focuses on the war in Gaza.

The hearings, which began last Monday, are the first time that the court, the International Court of Justice, has been asked to detail the legal consequences of Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation” of the territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, since 1967 — issues that have been the subject of years of debate and resolutions at the United Nations. The U.N. General Assembly asked the court to give an advisory opinion, which it is expected to take months to deliver.

The sessions, held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, are hearing from representatives of more than 50 countries, an unusually high number for the court. Most have sided with the Palestinian representatives, who argued that Israel had long abused Palestinian rights with impunity and denied their right to self-determination.

“Israel has arrogated to itself the right to decide who owns land, who may live on it, how it is used,” Philippe Sands, a member of the Palestinian delegation’s legal team, argued last week. “It has confined Palestinians to enclaves,” he added, and broken up its territory with hundreds of settlements “regarded as a permanent part of Israel.”

Israel has not appeared at the hearings, but, in a written submission, it rejected the questions raised by the proceedings as biased.

The proceedings have been given urgency by Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Health authorities in Gaza say that Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 29,000 people, the majority civilians, and provoked what the United Nations says is a humanitarian disaster.

Since the war began, Israeli forces have also detained hundreds of Palestinians in West Bank raids. Deadly violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers has increased and Palestinian attacks on Israelis have also risen.

A few speakers at the court, including those from the United States, Britain and Hungary, have sided with Israel. On Wednesday, a State Department official argued before the court that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians were determined by its “very real security needs.”

But Israel’s campaign in Gaza has presented a dilemma to President Biden’s administration, which has continued to supply Israel with military aid while expressing growing concern over the treatment of Palestinians.

Mr. Biden has said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been “over the top” in its conduct of the war in Gaza. And on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the American government was reversing a Trump administration policy and would now consider new Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories to be “inconsistent with international law.”

The final day of hearings at the U.N. court on Monday is scheduled to include arguments by representatives from Turkey, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 member states, most being Muslim-majority countries.