Israeli leaders breathe sigh of relief as ICJ declines to order ceasefire in Gaza

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue war until ‘absolute victory’

Israeli leaders and commentators reacted to Friday’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision with a sigh of relief, focusing on the fact that the judges declined to call on Israel to stop the war.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the decision at The Hague “rightly rejected the outrageous demand to deny” Israel the right to basic self-defence, to which it was entitled as a country.

“The very claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians is not just false, it is outrageous, and the court’s willingness to discuss it at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations,” Mr Netanyahu said.

He said that Israel would continue the war until “absolute victory”, until all hostages were returned and Gaza was no longer a threat to Israel.


Minister for defence Yoav Gallant said Israel “does not need to be lectured on morality” in order to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population in Gaza.

“The ICJ went above and beyond, when it granted South Africa’s anti-Semitic request to discuss the claim of genocide,” Mr Gallant said.

“Those who seek justice will not find it on the leather chairs of the court chambers in The Hague – they will find it in the Hamas tunnels in Gaza, where 136 hostages are held, and where those who murdered our children are hiding.”

The prime minister’s office ordered ministers not to comment on the ICJ ruling, but this did not prevent minister for national security Itamar Ben-Gvir, the outspoken leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, from posting on X: “Hague Shmague.”

“The decision of the anti-Semitic court proves what was already known: This court does not seek justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people. They were silent during the Holocaust and today they continue the hypocrisy,” he said.

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa, however, called the ICJ ruling a vindication of his government’s decision to approach the court.

Shortly after the ICJ handed down its interim judgment on Friday afternoon, Mr Ramaphosa described the outcome as an important first step in South Africa’s quest to secure justice for the people of Gaza.

“After more than a half a century of occupation, dispossession, oppression and apartheid, the Palestinian people’s cries for justice have been heeded by an eminent organ of the United Nations,” Mr Ramaphosa said in an address.

South Africa’s president said some people had criticised his government’s decision to intervene in the Israel-Hamas conflict, saying what was happening there was not its business and it should not get involved in the affairs of other countries.

“Yet it is very much our place [to get involved] as a people who know too well the pain of dispossession, discrimination, state-sponsored violence and as people who were victims of the crime that was apartheid,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

“We as South Africans will not be passive bystanders and watch the crimes that were visited on us, being perpetrated on people elsewhere. We stand on the side of freedom for all. We stand on the side of justice.”

Mr Ramaphosa said there should now be a concerted effort from international stakeholders to secure a ceasefire in the conflict, and negotiations should commence on a permanent two-state solution to enable Israel and Palestine to live side by side as two independent states.

“We expect Israel as a self-proclaimed democracy and a state that respects the rule of law to abide by the measures handed down by the International Court of Justice,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

South Africa’s department of international relations and co-operation also said there was now no credible basis for Israel to continue to claim its military actions in Gaza were in full compliance with international law, including the UN’s genocide convention, in light of the ICJ ruling.

“South Africa sincerely hopes that Israel will not act to frustrate the application of the [ICJ] order, as it has publicly threatened to do, but that it will instead act to comply with it fully, as it is bound to do,” the department said in a statement.

Yonah Jeremy Bob, the Jerusalem Post’s legal analyst, expressed satisfaction with the decision. ”

For 35 minutes, the ICJ badmouthed Israel, but then it surprised the Jewish state by not issuing any practical orders against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF),” he wrote “There was no order to cease the war and there was no order for the IDF to withdraw from Gaza.”

Israel’s ministry for foreign affairs stressed that the country remained committed to abide by international law, and that this had “nothing to do with the court proceedings”.

According to the ministry, “Israel’s war is against Hamas, not against Palestinian civilians”.

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Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa