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UN seeks top court opinion on Israeli occupation

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    38 minutes ago

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Image source, Getty Images

The UN General Assembly has asked the UN’s highest court to give a legal opinion on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

The resolution was backed by 87 countries but opposed by 26 others, including the UK and US.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issues binding rulings, but it cannot enforce them.

Friday’s vote came a day after Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn as prime minister of the most hard-line Israeli cabinet.

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Israel occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as occupied territory.

Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians claim the West Bank, along with Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip for their hoped-for future state.

Palestinian officials hailed the UN vote as a victory. Nabil Abu Rudeineh said it was time for Israel to be “held accountable for its ongoing crimes against our people”.

Israel’s new prime minister, for his part, described it 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,” Mr Netanyahu said on Saturday evening.

On Thursday, Benjamin Netanyahu returned as prime minister of Israel in a coalition with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.

The first guiding principle of the new government, published on Wednesday, declares that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the land of Israel”.

It says that includes the occupied West Bank and promises to “advance and develop” settlements there.

About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.

The vast majority of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The new government has also promised to retroactively legalise some 100 outposts in the West Bank built without Israeli authorisation – and to annex the West Bank.

A spokesman for the UK’s UN delegation said it did not feel a referral to the ICJ was “helpful in bringing back the parties back to dialogue”.

He added it was “inappropriate without the consent of both parties” to ask the court to advise on “what is essentially a bilateral dispute”.

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