Judges Without Borders

The International Court of Justice is set to weigh in on Israel’s security barrier.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The International Court of Justice at The Hague is preparing to hear a case involving Israel’s controversial separation barrier. The Bush administration finds itself caught between a desire to oppose the barrier and a reluctance to validate the international body’s jurisdiction over the matter.

The case, which will be heard in February, comes after the United Nations General Assembly voted for an inquiry into Israel’s construction of the barrier. On Monday the I.C.J. ordered Israel to submit arguments defending its placement of the barrier on land that extends past the internationally recognized 1967 border of Israel — land that is expected to constitute a future Palestinian state. The court’s opinion will not be binding, and a U.N. Security Council ruling sanctioning Israel is extremely unlikely, so the Hague’s decision is likely to do little more than embarrass Israel. But the larger question of the relevance of international institutions like the court is very much in play.

The United States is likely to stay out of the hearing. While the I.C.J. generally rules on border issues, this case crosses the line into the legalities of occupation. A new negative ruling on occupying powers doesn’t bode well for the U.S., as its own occupation of Iraq grows more complex.

Israel has been trying to coax bring the U.S. round to its side, arguing that the barrier is necessary to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks.

As Nathan Guttman writes in Ha’aretz, Israel sees the I.C.J inquiry as an inappropriate forum for settling international affairs, a view likely to find takers on the American side.

“The message that Israel is sending to the U.S. is that the issue to be discussed at The Hague is not the question of whether the separation fence is good or bad, but rather whether the International Court is becoming the supreme forum for settling questions of international affairs. The United States is perhaps the only power in the world, but if it is the International Court of Justice that makes the decisions, then America’s diplomatic strength as a power is getting eroded.”

Washington has a few choices. As Guttman puts it, the U.S. could offer a deposition stating in favor of the Israeli position, or it could rally a coalition against bringing such cases in front of the I.C.J.. The case will certainly heat up as Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon plans a trip to make his case to Bush next month.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate