Israel has reacted angrily to the weekend decision by the United Nations General Assembly asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s highest court, for a legal opinion of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory.
The resolution was backed by 87 countries including Ireland, with 26 states voting against and 53 abstentions. The ICJ, based in the Hague, issues advisory rulings but it cannot enforce them.
Binyamin Netanyahu, who took over as prime minister last week, described the UN resolution as “despicable”.
“The Jewish people are not occupiers on their own land nor occupiers in our eternal capital Jerusalem and no UN resolution can warp that historical truth,” he said.
On Thursday, Mr Netanyahu returned for his sixth term as Israel’s leader, heading a coalition composed entirely of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.
The policy guidelines of the new government state that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the land of Israel”, including Judea and Samaria, the biblical term for the areas of the West Bank.
Zvika Fogel, a member of the Knesset (parliament) for the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, argued that the occupation was permanent. “I want to continue to exercise sovereignty over all those territories where I can exercise sovereignty,” he said.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, called for Israel to abide by the ruling on its “crimes”.
“The time has come for Israel to be a law-abiding state and bear responsibility for crimes against our people,” he said. “We believe that justice based on decisions with international legitimacy and the absence of impunity is the only way to achieve permanent and lasting peace in Palestine, Israel and the entire region.”
Meanwhile, ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir has decided to postpone plans to visit the flashpoint Temple Mount site in Jerusalem’s old city, revered by Muslims as the Harm al-Sharif noble sanctuary.
‘Blatant and shameless’
Mr Ben-Gvir, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, planned to visit the site in the coming days but agreed to delay after talks with Mr Netanyahu.
Previous visits by Mr Ben-Gvir had provoked angry Palestinian reaction and this would have been his first visit as Israel’s new national security minister.
The Palestinians had warned that such a visit would lead to violence.
“Ben-Gvir’s threat to storm the al-Aqsa mosque as security minister is a blatant and shameless challenge that requires a Palestinian, Arab and international response,” Palestinian Liberation Organisation secretary general Hussein al-Sheikh warned.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid described the planned visit as a “provocation that will lead to deadly violence and will cost lives”.