John McHugo, Balfour Project Trustee, internation law expert and Middle East historian writes:
The International Court of Justice is the judicial organ of the United Nations. In December 2022 it was requested by the UN General Assembly to clarify “the legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem”.
The UN Independent International Commission of Enquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel (the “UNIIC“), has released a very helpful document setting out its position on the questions put to the Court. It is not a long document, and you can read it here on the Balfour Project website. Its argument on the substantive issues is contained in paragraphs 6-23, and we recommend those paragraphs in particular to our readers.
These paragraphs show in a clear and reasoned manner how Israel has misused its position as an occupying power by violating the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination on the entirety of the Palestinian territory Israel occupied in 1967.
One obvious example of such misuse is Israel’s purported annexation of occupied territory, which is null and void under international law. Purported annexation can occur either under Israeli law, in which case it is “de jure annexation”, or by administrative acts by Israel which treat territory occupied in 1967 as though it were Israeli sovereign territory. In the latter case it is “de facto annexation”. Another example is the construction of Israeli civilian settlements on occupied land. This is an egregious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The permanence intended by Israeli actions such as these purported annexations and the construction of settlements has led the UNIIC to conclude that Israel’s occupation has itself become illegal.
These illegal acts are the responsibility of the state of Israel. Under the doctrine of state responsibility, Israel is under an obligation to end them, to give assurances and guarantees that it will not repeat them, and to make full reparations.
The policy of the current UK Government is to prefer that the Court did not give an advisory opinion which clarified these issues, and has requested it to exercise its inherent jurisdiction accordingly. You can see the UK Government’s written statement to the court here. Nevertheless, most legal experts believe the court will go ahead and give its opinion. If it clarifies the questions before it, this will put pressure on governments around the world (including the UK Government) to meet their obligation not to recognise the illegal situation arising from Israel’s violations, not to render aid or assistance that might help maintain the illegal situation, and to co-operate together to put an end to Israel’s violations.