India has abstained in the UN General Assembly on a resolution that asked the International Court of Justice for its opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s “prolonged occupation” and annexation of the Palestinian territory.
The draft resolution ‘Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’ was adopted by a recorded vote on Friday, with 87 votes in favour, 26 against and 53 abstentions, including by India.
What the UNGA Resolution was about
The resolution decided to request the UN's highest judicial body to “render an advisory opinion” on “what are 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, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”
It also asked the Hague-based top UN court “how do the policies and practices of Israel… 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?”
The resolution was adopted despite Israeli opposition. This will have the effect of the ICJ addressing the legality or illegality of Israel's prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory as well as address the responsibility of third states to bring the occupation to an end.
US among 26 votes against 'outrageous resolution,' India among others abstains
The US and Israel voted against the resolution while Brazil, Japan, Myanmar and France were among those that abstained.
Before the vote, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said that the “outrageous resolution” calling for the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice is a “moral stain on the UN and every country that supports it. 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.”
Erdan added that the decision to hold a vote that deals with Israel on Shabbat is another example of the “moral decay” of the UN, which prevents Israel's position from being heard in a vote whose results are predetermined.
He added that at the UN General Assembly High-Level Week in September 2021, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced in his remarks that if Israel did not withdraw to the 1967 lines within a year, the Palestinians would turn to The Hague. “Today's vote is the realisation of Abbas's ultimatum,” he said.
The State of Palestine warmly welcomes the adoption of Resolution and thanks Member States that stood firm on principle and supported this resolution. This is a resounding victory for the rules-based international order. It is a vote for justice & against Israeli impunity.— State of Palestine - MFA (@pmofa) December 31, 2022
Allegations of 'Bias against Israel'
Following the vote, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement that the vote at the United Nations exemplifies an ongoing pattern of bias against Israel, and “we applaud those 26 countries, including the United States, who voted against this shameful resolution that seeks to isolate and demonize the Jewish state.”
Lauder said the “measure is a direct outgrowth of the biased Commission of Inquiry on Israel, whose commissioners have made antisemitic comments and who have been unabashed critics of Israel. Referral of this issue to the ICJ is yet another barrier to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Lauder added that "peace in the region can only be negotiated by the two sides directly involved.”
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World Jewish Congress is an international organisation representing Jewish communities in more than 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.
India's stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict
Historically, India held the accolade of being the only major non-Arab, non-Muslim nation to back the Palestinian cause. In 1974, India was quick to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Later in 1975, the first PLO office was set up in New Delhi and an embassy was set up in 1980. In 1988, India became one of the first countries to recognise the newly established state of Palestine.
Through these years, India sustained a policy of hyphenating the ties with Israel – linking them to ties with the Palestinian Authority, wherein a visit of the heads of state to Israel was accompanied by a visit to the Palestinian land as well.
However, this stance changed under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s second term wherein Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017 for the first time visited Israel but skipped a customary stoppage in Palestine. This has come to be described as a policy of “De-Hyphenation.”
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India’s stance on the conflict has shifted from a four-decades long pro-Palestine position to a careful balancing act, following the establishment of India-Israel diplomatic relations in 1992. Thus, de-hyphenation simply suggests a tilt towards an ‘independent’ foreign policy wherein bilateral relations with Israel are based solely on its own merits, separate from its relationship with the Palestinians.
This shift in India's stance to the conflict has been visible in India's votes at international fora. Earlier this year, India also abstained on a resolution demanding a probe into Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip at the UN Human Rights Council.
(With inputs from PTI)