International courts won’t stop Israel’s occupation, but they can shift narratives
The passing of a United Nations resolution requesting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to weigh in on the Israeli occupation has given a major diplomatic victory to the Palestinians.
However, the ICJ, which settles disputes between countries, has no power to enforce its opinions despite them being legally binding. So what consequences would an advisory opinion from the international court have for Israel and the Palestinian territories?
The resolution, passed by the UN General Assembly last Friday, calls for the ICJ to "urgently" weigh in on Israel's "prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory", which it said violated the Palestinians' right to self-determination.
It refers to Palestinian lands occupied by Israel since the 1967 war - the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem - and policies aimed at "altering the demographic composition, character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem".
The UN resolution asks the court for an opinion on how these Israeli policies and practices "affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all states and the United Nations from this status?"
Palestinian policy experts and academics say that while any ICJ decision critical of Israel would help Palestinians in terms of raising awareness, it would do little to hold Israel accountable and stop its policies against Palestinians, which a number of human rights groups have labelled as apartheid.
"A decision by the ICJ would represent a symbolic victory for Palestinians on the international stage, but it is unlikely that it will change much for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and apartheid," Tariq Kenney-Shawa, a US policy fellow for Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, told Middle East Eye.