The International Court of Justice hears arguments regarding Israel's occupation of land claimed by Palestinians

Thilo Schmulgen/Reuters

International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands.


The International Court of Justice on Monday began hearing historic oral arguments regarding Israeli occupation of territory claimed by the Palestinians. The region is locked in an unprecedented war.

Fifty-two countries will take part in arguments at the six-day trial in The Hague – more than any other case heard by the court in its history.

Case A 2022 UN General Assembly Request for Advisory Opinion. As the General Assembly wrote, “The 15 judges on the Court will be asked to consider the legal consequences arising from Israel's continued violation of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, its long-term occupation, settlement and annexation. The Palestinian Territory has been occupied since 1967.”

The court, established after World War II as a way for countries to settle disputes without confrontation, takes months to render a verdict. An ICJ opinion is advisory and not binding.

Monday's case was different from those held in January South Africa's charge Israel has been committing genocide in its war against Hamas since the October 7 attack.

That case won the majority of the court Israel must be ordered to stop the genocide Israel stopped short of calling for a moratorium on its military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, as demanded by South Africa. At the time, Israel had already indicated that it would not accept the ICJ's ruling, writing in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office X that “no one will stop us – not the hack, not the Axis of Evil, and no one else.”

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Monday's proceedings regarding the West Bank began with remarks by Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

“Successive Israeli governments have given the Palestinian people only three options: displacement, submission or death,” Al-Maliki said. “But our people remain here and they have the right to live in freedom and dignity in their ancestral land. They will not give up their rights.

Al-Maliki called for an end to “double standards in dealing with the Palestinian issue” and argued for the ICJ to recognize the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.

“The limits of the right to self-determination are not forfeited by law and are not negotiable, and the Israeli occupation must end unconditionally,” he said on Monday. “It is time to put an end to the double standards that have held our people captive for so long. International law must be applied to all states.

“This court must declare Israel's occupation illegal and end it completely and unconditionally,” Al-Maliki added.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat criticized the Palestinian Authority for “distorting the truth and avoiding direct negotiations” in seeking a unilateral legal ruling from the ICJ.

“By making false accusations and creating a fundamentally distorted reality, the Palestinian Authority is trying to turn a conflict that should be resolved through direct negotiations, without external impositions, into a one-sided and improper legal process designed to follow an extremist and distorted narrative,” Hayat said.

Hayat condemned the Palestinian leadership for ignoring acts of terrorism, fueling anti-Semitism and misrepresenting the legal framework of the conflict, urging a return to direct negotiations to resolve the conflict.

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Echoing Hayat's sentiment, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office (PMO) rejected the ICJ's legitimacy to discuss the “legality of the occupation,” which it considered an attack on Israel's right to defend itself against existential threats. In a written statement, the office stressed its determination to resist what it sees as attempts by the Palestinians to boycott the talks.

“Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of the debate at the International Court of Justice in The Hague regarding the 'legality of the occupation' – which is designed to undermine Israel's right to defend itself against existential threats,” the statement said.

Representatives of various countries participating in the case will present their views starting on Tuesday. Israel is not scheduled to speak, but has made written submissions.

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Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza 1967 Six Day War. It then unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem and withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza.

Under the peace accords of the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three distinct areas with control split between the locations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel today has full administrative and security control over 60% of the West Bank, while the PA has nominal control over Palestinian population centers.

There are an estimated 700,000 Israeli immigrants Illegally living in the West Bank.

All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and by much of the international community. Israel argues that it distinguishes unauthorized settlements.

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