Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israel cannot be an “occupier” on “its own land” in response to the UN General Assembly’s decision to ask the International Court of Justice to investigate the legality of the occupation of Palestinian territories.
The UN resolution was passed just a day after Netanyahu was sworn back into power, ushering in Israel’s most hardline government in its history.
His coalition cabinet, which includes several West Bank settlers, has pledged to prioritize the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the annexation of the West Bank.
In a statement released on Saturday, Netanyahu said he would not be bound by any “vile decision” made by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), adding that it was the latest in a series of “wrong” UN rulings issued against Israel’s General Assembly over the years.
“The Jewish people are not an occupier on their own land or in our eternal capital Jerusalem, and no UN resolution can distort this historical truth,” he said.
Along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians are seeking a state in the occupied West Bank. Most countries consider Israel’s settlements there to be illegal, which Israel disputes, citing historical and biblical ties to the country.
Eli Cohen, Israel’s new foreign minister, called the investigation “anti-Israel” and said its outcome would “change nothing on the ground.”
Collision course with allies
The agreements reached by Netanyahu to form Israel’s new coalition government mean that the country’s position has drastically moved away from the status quo. This potentially sets the country on a violent course with the international community and its closest ally, the United States.
The International Court of Justice will issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures to change the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem,” the court ruled.
Its rulings are binding, although the ICJ has no power to enforce them. Both the UK and the US voted against the probe resolution.
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the UN vote and said that “the time has come for Israel to become a state governed by law and be held accountable for its ongoing crimes against our people.”
After forming a new coalition, the Islamist Fatah movement held a rare rally on Saturday attended by thousands in Hamas-controlled Gaza City, calling on Palestinians for “national reconciliation.”