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On the legality of Israel’s occupation

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: International Relations


Source: TH


Direction: The article discusses Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land over time and attempts to restore normalcy in the region.


Context: The UNGA passed a resolution (India abstained from the vote) that asked the body’s highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to render its opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian land.


Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land:

  • A UNGA resolution had sought to partition the British mandate Palestine, which was rejected by the Arabs.
  • The state of Israel was declared in 1948 → first Arab-Israeli war (1948).
  • Historically Palestine was divided into the –
    • State of Israel (including West Jerusalem),
    • West Bank (including East Jerusalem) that was taken over by Jordan and
    • Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt).
  • Tensions kept rising between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, which led to the six-day war of 1967.
  • The war resulted in Israel capturing the –
    • West Bank,
    • Gaza Strip (Israel withdrew in 2005, however, its external borders are still controlled by Israel and Egypt),
    • East Jerusalem,
    • Syria’s Golan Heights and
    • Sinai Peninsula of Egypt (later returned to Egypt).
  • Israel also declared the whole of Jerusalem as its “eternal, undivided capital”.


Attempts to restore normalcy:

  • The UNSC passed a resolution in late 1967 stating that Israel must withdraw from the territories it seized in the war.
  • However, it is yet to happen and the fate of Palestinian self-determination remains uncertain.


What does the recent resolution seek to do?

  • It asked the ICJ to advise on the legal consequences of –
    • Israel’s occupation, settlement and annexation.
    • Israel’s measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
  • There are two possibilities – the ICJ can either lead to a settlement between parties or it can lead to a trial followed by a verdict. While its rulings are binding, the ICJ has no power to enforce them.



  • The UN resolution coincides with the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister for a sixth time. In his words, “Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel.”
  • There are fears that the new hard-line regime will bring damaging impacts for Palestinians.


Insta Links:

India-Palestine relations: Ignoring the dispossessed people goes against India’s anti-colonial legacy


Mains Links:

Q. “India’s relations with Israel have, of late, acquired a depth and diversity, which cannot be rolled back.” Discuss. (UPSC 2018)


Prelims Links: (UPSC 2015)

The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events related to

a) Central Asia

b) Middle East

c) South-East Asia

d) Central Africa


Ans: b