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To what extent is Israel bound to accept the ICJ verdict on genocide charges?

The Genocide Convention was enacted in 1948 in response to the extermination of Jews by the German Nazis during World War II. According to that convention, genocide is an act committed with the intention of completely or partially wiping out an ethnic group, caste or religious group. Even if the ICJ has granted an interim order, it may take years to reach a full verdict on the case. There is no opportunity to appeal against the judgment given by this court. However, the court does not have the power to enforce or compel compliance with that judgment. Although Israel is a signatory to the Genocide Convention, it is obliged to obey ICJ orders.

During the announcement of the ICJ's order, there were protests outside The Hague court in support of the Palestinians. Some of the protesters hugged each other and cheered when the order was announced. The United Nations' highest court has called on Israel to take all necessary measures to halt the genocide in Gaza, although it has not explicitly demanded an end to the hostilities. Previously, on December 29, South Africa had lodged a case accusing Israel of genocide. Israel, however, has refuted the allegations as unfounded. In the hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, the judge issued directions for the first time in this case. However, it may take an extended period, possibly several years, for the court to render a verdict on the primary allegation of 'genocide' in this case.

While the court did not explicitly instruct Israel to cease military operations in Gaza in accordance with South Africa's claim, this order is being perceived as a victory for those who were on the side of this case in the court.

In a statement, South Africa has stated that this decision is historic in the application of international law, and it marks a significant milestone for justice for the Palestinian people. And the Palestinian Foreign Minister commented that this decision proves that no state is above the law. However, it cannot be considered a complete victory for either South Africa or the Palestinians, as the question remains whether Israel will comply with the court's order.

The United Nations' top court has acknowledged the alarming humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The ICJ finds that the issue falls within the scope of its jurisdiction for adjudication and considers that the Geneva Convention of 1948 may not have been adhered to. As a result, the Palestinian people in Gaza are under the looming threat of irreparable harm. As a result, the court has conveyed several claims to Israel, many of which are consistent with the nine interim measures that South Africa had previously proposed, making them significantly relevant. The court, consisting of 17 judges, with a majority, issued an order stating that Israel must take all possible measures to prevent the killing of Palestinians, their physical and mental harm, creating an uninhabitable environment in Gaza, or intentionally impeding the birth of Palestinians.

Simultaneously, using the examples of Israel's President and Defense Minister, it is suggested that Israel should make more efforts to deter its people from participating in acts of genocide and work within the framework of justice and punishment. In addition, urgent and effective measures are called to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Although there is no mention of a ceasefire, if the demands made to Israel are implemented, there will be a major change in Israel's ongoing military operations in Gaza.

While Israel has vehemently denied allegations of genocide, they argue that it is Hamas, the Palestinian group in control, that puts non-military civilians in danger, using them as human shields. They argue that Hamas conducts its operations within densely populated urban areas of Gaza and within refugee camps, making it nearly impossible for Israel to carry out strikes without causing harm to non-military individuals. They claim to take various measures to warn and minimize the risk to civilians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not directly commented on this court ruling. However, he has stated that Israel has unwavering trust in international law. Additionally, he emphasizes their strong commitment to defending their homeland.

Among Israel's Jewish citizens, there is a general belief that their military is one of the most ethical forces in the world. However, since October, due to the Israeli military campaign, 85% of the 2.3 million residents in Gaza are now displaced. Those who have fled the conflict have sought refuge in overcrowded and makeshift shelters, where there is often a lack of essential healthcare and humanitarian assistance. The statement by ICJ President Joan Donoghue makes it clear that the court has been most actively engaged in addressing the emergency situation in Gaza, and Israel's attempt to dismiss the case was not successful. Joan Donoghue highlights the indescribable suffering that Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing, particularly emphasizing the heartbreaking impact on children. However, she clarifies that the issue of genocide is not the final verdict of the court, and it may take several more years for the court to reach a conclusive decision.

However, the discussed measures primarily revolve around ensuring the security of the Palestinian population in Gaza. Simultaneously, the judges will also address the core allegations related to South Africa's complaint. The court has stated that Israel must inform them of the measures it has taken within one month. Now, Israel has to decide how it will respond. The legal authority of the ICJ's decision exists, but there is no power to enforce compliance. Israel can also defy the judges if it wants. Israel could counter-argue that it is already working to meet the court's demands. However, the situation still shows no signs of improvement and accusations of genocide against Israel persist. Cases that the ICJ considers to have credibility. This can be seen with a little more analysis.

Israel, the state that created from nothing and the worst example of genocide, they have to abide by the law until the court gives its verdict. According to the information from the Health Ministry in Gaza, since the beginning of the Israeli incursion, more than 26,000 Palestinians have lost their lives. The majority of the casualties are women and children. Additionally, the number of injured individuals is in the thousands. The incident stemmed from Hamas's unprovoked attacks on Israel. On October 7th, in a Hamas assault, nearly 1,300 Israelis lost their lives. Most of them were civilian non-combatants. The attackers took about 250 hostages to Gaza that day.

South Africa has filed an immediate application to the International Court of Justice on nine issues against Israel. Among these issues is the cessation of military aggression in Gaza, which South Africa describes as genocide. While there may be some uncertainty about how much Israel will comply with the ruling of the International Court of Justice, it is believed that this decision will also exert moral and political pressure on its international allies. In addition to the South African allegations, the court order has specifically referenced some aspects within the charges that are undoubtedly within the purview of evidence of genocide.

However, the absence of an immediate order to halt the military campaign may disappoint South Africa. Although certain specific steps will be required from Israel. Within a month, Israel must comply with the court's order and submit a report regarding the implementation of the directives related to the cessation of hostilities to the International Court of Justice. The order specifies that Israel must take all necessary measures within its power to prevent acts that could lead to genocide. Legal experts will now closely scrutinize Israel's compliance with this directive. Now, Israel must decide on its course of action in response to this judgment. While there is legal obligation to comply with the ICJ's order, But the court has no power to enforce it.

Certainly, for the sake of security, it is crucial for Israel to implement reasoned and justifiable measures. Simultaneously, fulfilling the legitimate expectations of Palestinians is also imperative. For that purpose, the realization of a fully independent, effective, and sovereign Palestinian state in accordance with the United Nations resolutions, international law, and previous agreements is essential. The end of Israeli occupation is crucial in this context. The Israeli government has recently unequivocally rejected the idea of a two-state solution. The way they are repeatedly ignoring it is unacceptable. Even Israel's allies have made appeals in this regard. Despite such pleas, Israel's current behavior, the rejection of the two-state solution, and the denial of the rights of the Palestinian people will likely prolong the ongoing conflict indefinitely. This poses a significant threat not only to global peace and security but also increases the risk of radicalization, with extremists likely to be further emboldened.

Recognition of the right to establish an independent state for the Palestinian people is imperative. Simultaneously, any rejection of a two-state solution must be firmly disavowed. The international community plays a crucial role in this context. To support both Israelis and Palestinians, unity is essential so that effective steps can be taken to advance the peace process. The two-state solution has faced numerous challenges and setbacks in recent decades, often marred by failed assessments and ineffective implementation. However, it remains the only viable and just path to achieve lasting and equitable peace in the region. The incidents of the past three months have sadly reminded us of that. But the two-state solution is the only way out of the endless cycle of fear, hatred and ferocity.

Author: Researcher and columnist

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