Officials in Israel on Friday denounced the International Court of Justice's order seeking to prevent acts of genocide in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza, but also expressed relief that the court had not ordered it to halt its military campaign.
Israeli officials feared that the judges would order an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as South Africa had requested in its initial petition. Ultimately, the UN court ordered Israel to act to ensure that its soldiers and commanders adhered to the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, but stopped short of calling for an end to the war.
Israel has strongly rejected accusations of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. After the interim ruling was issued on Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the court.
“The idea that Israel is committing genocide is not only false, it is infuriating, and the court’s willingness to discuss it is a mark of shame that will last for generations,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
But he said the court order upheld Israel's right to protect itself after the Hamas-led attacks on October 7 that pushed it into war in Gaza.
“Like any country, Israel has the basic right to self-defense. “The court rightly rejected the disgraceful request to revoke this right,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
Raz Nazri, a former Israeli deputy attorney general, said Israel has already taken most of the measures the court ordered it to take, such as ensuring humanitarian access to Gaza and punishing statements that could incite genocide.
He added: “There was no judicial order to stop the fighting.” “It is extremely important that such an order is not issued.”
Many Israelis believe that South Africa's accusations of genocide are an inversion of reality. Authorities say they accuse Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, of committing genocide in its October 7 attack, which killed about 1,200 people in Israel. Hamas and other armed groups took 240 others hostage, many of whom remain detained in Gaza.
Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right Israeli Finance Minister, said: “It is certain that there is an attempted genocide of the Jewish people by Hamas, the barbaric Nazis.”
Yoav Galant, Israel's defense minister, said Israel did not need to be “lectured on morality” by the court. The justices had noted some of Mr. Gallant's previous comments — including that Israel was at war with “human animals” — when discussing whether Israeli officials had used genocidal rhetoric.
In their ruling, the UN court's judges declared their “deep concern” about the fate of the hostages and called for their immediate release.
The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed more than 25,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials in the Strip. Most of Gaza's population of more than two million has fled their homes to escape Israeli air strikes and ground invasion.
“Unapologetic tv specialist. Hardcore zombie trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver.”