RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Israel condemned and Palestinians welcomed a United Nations General Assembly vote on Saturday calling on the International Court of Justice to provide an opinion on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Friday’s vote presents a challenge for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin netanyahuthat this week he took office as head of a government that has made settlement expansion a priority and includes parties who want to annex the West Bank land on which they are built.
“The Jewish people do not occupy their own land or occupy our eternal capital, Jerusalem, and no UN resolution can distort that historical truth,” Netanyahu said in a video message, adding that Israel was not bound by the “despicable decision ”.
Along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians seek the occupied West Bank for a state. Most countries consider Israel’s settlements there illegal, a view of Israel disputes that cites historical and biblical ties to the land.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, is the main UN court dealing with disputes between states. Its rulings are binding, although the ICJ has no power to enforce them.
The UN General Assembly has asked the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation…including measures intended to alter the demographic composition, character and status of the City Saint of Jerusalem”.
Members of Netanyahu’s new government have pledged to bolster the settlements with development plans, budgets and the authorization of dozens of outposts built without permits.
The cabinet includes newly created posts and restructured roles that give some of those powers to pro-settler coalition partners, who ultimately aim to extend Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank.
However, Netanyahu has given no indication of any imminent steps to annex the settlements, a move that would likely shake his relations with Western and Arab allies alike.
The Palestinians welcomed the UN vote in which 87 members voted to adopt the request; Israel, the United States and 24 other members voted against; and 53 absent.
“The time has come for Israel to be a state subject to law and for it to be held accountable for its continued crimes against our people,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule in the West Bank.
Basem Naim, an official with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza, said it was “an important step to confine and isolate the occupying state (Israel).”
Written by Maayan Lubell; Edited by Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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