Palestinians say UN vote on Israel’s occupation ‘a victory’

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The Palestinians on Saturday welcomed a vote by the United Nations General Assembly to ask the International Court of Justice for an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“The time has come for Israel to be a state subject to law, and to be held accountable for its ongoing crimes against our people,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Senior Palestinian official Hussein Al-Sheikh said on Twitter that Friday’s vote “reflects the victory of Palestinian diplomacy.”

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in a 1967 war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but, along with neighbouring Egypt, controls the enclave’s borders.

The Hague-based ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the top UN court dealing with disputes between states. Its rulings are binding, though the ICJ has no power to enforce them.

The request for a court opinion on Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories was made in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly with 87 votes in favour. Israel, the United States and 24 other members voted against, while 53 abstained.

“No international body can decide that the Jewish people are ‘occupiers’ in their own homeland. Any decision from a judicial body which receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN is completely illegitimate,” Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said in a statement ahead of the vote.

Israel’s former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who was replaced on Thursday by Benjamin Netanyahu, last month urged world leaders to oppose the move, saying that bringing the matter to the court would “only play into the hands of extremists.”

The Islamist group Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 after a brief civil war with more moderate Palestinian rivals. Hamas and Israel have since fought three Gaza wars.

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour noted that the vote came one day after the swearing in of a new hard-right Israeli government that promises to expand Jewish settlements and pursue other policies criticized at home and abroad.— Agencies