Key UN committee seeks legal opinion on Israel’s occupation

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A key U.N. committee approved a draft resolution Friday calling on the International Court of Justice to urgently issue its opinion on the legal consequences of denying the Palestinian people the right to self-determination as a result of Israel’s actions since the 1967 Mideast war.

The measure was vehemently opposed by Israel, which argued it would destroy any chance of reconciliation with the Palestinians.

The vote in the General Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee was 98-17, with 52 abstentions. The resolution will now go to the 193-member assembly for a final vote before the end of the year, when it is virtually certain of approval.

The draft cites Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights to self-determination “from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

It would ask the court for an opinion on how these Israeli policies and practices “affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all states and the United Nations from this status.”

The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, is one of the U.N.’s main organs and is charged with settling disputes between countries. Its opinions are not binding.

This is not the first opinion sought from the court stemming from the nearly 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2004, the court said that a barrier Israel had built, mainly inside the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — which, along with the Gaza Strip, are territories Palestinians seek for their future state — was “contrary to international law.”

The draft also demands Israel comply with the court’s 2004 decision and stop construction of the wall, dismantle it, and make reparations for all damage caused by its construction, “which has gravely impacted the human rights” and living conditions of Palestinians.

The call for a new opinion was one of six Palestinian-related resolutions approved by the committee on Friday.

Before the vote, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan told U.N. member nations they had a choice on whether to support negotiations or “to be an accomplice in destroying any hope for reconciliation” and perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He warned that “involving a judicial organ in a decades-old conflict only to dictate one side’s demands on the other ensures many more years of stagnation.”

“By coopting the court,” Erdan said, “the Palestinians are given the perfect excuse to continue boycotting the negotiating table to perpetuate the conflict.”

After the vote, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, expressed gratitude to member states that approved all six resolutions and cited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the annual General Assembly in September that urged for the mobilizing of “all the components of our international law-based order, including international justice.”

Mansour thanked the countries that supported the resolution and said that “nothing justifies standing with Israeli occupation and annexation, its displacement and dispossession of our people.”

“Our people are entitled to freedom,” he said. “This occupation will need to end.”

“There will come a day, a day when our people will bring the flag of Palestine over the churches of Jerusalem and to the mosques of Jerusalem and Haram al-Sharif,” Mansour added, referring to the Muslim name for the flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City that Israeli’s refer to as the Temple Mount.

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