Majority of Countries Argue Israel Violated Int’l Law

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator holds a sign outside the United Nations’ highest court during historic hearings in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 21. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The United Nations’ highest court on Monday wrapped up proceedings with most voices at the hearing arguing against the Israeli government.

Over six days, the International Court of Justice heard from an unprecedented number of countries and the majority argued Israel was violating international law and called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The hearings addressed a request by the U.N. General Assembly for a non-binding opinion on the legality of Israel’s policies. The court says it will issue its opinion in “due course.” On average, advisory opinions are released six months after oral proceedings.

The United States also cautioned the court against issuing an opinion, calling for an immediate withdrawal from the territories. Acting State Department legal adviser Richard Visek said last week the judges should not seek to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict “through an advisory opinion addressed to questions focusing on the acts of only one party.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki had previously urged the 15-judge panel to uphold the Palestinian right to self-determination and to declare “that the Israeli occupation is illegal and must end immediately, totally and unconditionally.”

Israel rejects accusations that its treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid and has accused U.N. bodies and international tribunals of bias.

It did not participate in the oral proceedings but, in a five-page written submission, Israel said the questions put to the court are prejudiced and “fail to recognize Israel’s right and duty to protect its citizens.”

In 2004, the court said that a separation barrier Israel built through East Yerushalayim and parts of the West Bank was “contrary to international law.” It also called on Israel to immediately halt construction. Israel ignored the ruling.

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