Last week, the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee on decolonisation adopted a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to render an opinion on the “legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967”. Although ICJ opinions are always advisory, they have a far-reaching influence due to the moral standing of that international judicial institution. Suffice it to recall how its ruling on the dividing wall that Israel built in the West Bank helped rally international condemnation of that illegal structure. The draft resolution was approved by a vote of 98 in favour to 17 against, with 52 abstentions. The latter consisted primarily of European countries and other Israeli allies.
The significant majority in favour of this resolution is another clear sign of how world opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict has shifted as the facts are revealed after years of deliberate official and media coverups and disinformation. Not surprisingly, the US and Israel campaigned relentlessly to drum up opposition to the resolution, going so far as to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw his support from the resolution which was sponsored by 13 states: Egypt, Algeria, Brunei, Cuba, Mauritania, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Namibia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Tunisia, in addition to the Palestinian Authority.
The successful passage of the resolution crowns Arab diplomatic efforts in the UN and proves that the Arab bloc can have a major influence in international forums when its members unify their positions and work in concert to promote a cause. When the ICJ issues its opinion, it can become a powerful instrument in the battle against the occupation and the detrimental impacts of the occupation authorities’ actions and Israeli settlement activities on the rights of Palestinians and other inhabitants of the occupied territories, including occupied Jerusalem.
However, the efficacy of this instrument will depend on whether the Arabs know how to use it.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.