By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The vast majority of over 55 countries that made submissions to the U.N.’s highest judicial body which will give an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories supported the Palestinians view that Israel is taking over land they seek for an independent state, their U.N. ambassador said Wednesday.
The Palestinian U.N. envoy, Riyad Mansour, told a group of reporters the number of submissions to the International Court of Justice exceeded Palestinian expectations and came from every continent and included all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.
The U.N. General Assembly last Dec. 30 adopted a Palestinian-backed resolution asking the court’s opinion on the legality of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories. It also seeks an opinion on the legal consequences of Israeli measures it said are “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.” And it asks for an opinion on how all Israeli policies affect the legal status of its occupation, “and what are the legal consequences that arise for all states and the United Nations from this status.”
Israel vehemently opposed the resolution. Its ambassador, Gilad Erdan, called the measure “outrageous,” the U.N. “morally bankrupt and politicized,” and said any potential decision from the court will be “completely illegitimate.”
Mansour didn’t provide further details on the submissions except to say the vast majority supported the Palestinians.
He said the next step is for the countries that made submissions to the court to rebut what other countries said if they desire, and to make additional submissions by Oct. 25. The court will then set oral arguments, deliberate, and render an opinion.
“When should we expect the opinion to be submitted?” Mansour said. “To be cautious, I think maybe sometime in the spring of next year. But, of course, the court is the master of its destiny.”
While the court’s rulings are not binding, they influence international opinion. It last addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2004, when the Assembly asked it to consider the legality of an Israeli-built separation barrier.
The court, located in The Hague, said the barrier was “contrary to international law” and called on Israel to immediately halt construction. Israel has said the barrier is a security measure meant to prevent Palestinian attackers from reaching Israeli cities and has ignored the ruling.
The December General Assembly resolution demands that Israel comply with the court’s ruling, dismantle the wall and pay reparations for all damage caused by its construction.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state. Israel considers the West Bank to be disputed territory and has built dozens of settlements that are now home to roughly 500,000 Jewish settlers. It also has annexed east Jerusalem and considers the entire city to be its capital.
The United Nations and the international community overwhelmingly consider the settlements and Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive holy sites, to be illegal.