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by Rhonda Spivak

Editor's Report: What are the Practical Effects of the ICJ Ruling?

by Rhonda Spivak, Jan 27, 2024


The International Court of Justice (the ICJ) did not order Israel to cease its military action in Gaza and did not order the IDF to leave Gaza. It also did not order Iarael to allow Gazans to return to North Gaza. 


However, the ICJ  found that 15-2 there was a "plausible" risk that  Israel was committing genocide, and Israel has to "take all measures within its powers" to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians, including by allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza to prevent famine and disease. The President of the ICJ , who is American, went along with this virtually unanimous finding, such that it appears quite possible that  the ICJ interim rulings will create pressure on Israel to change the way it prosecutes the war. Even though the court does not have any actual enforcement mechanisms, Israel will not want its reputation and international standing damaged any further. The court also required Israel to submit a report within one month detailing how it has  adhered to the interim court orders, which leaves the door open for the ICJ to give a more serious order in a month's time. The ICJ may well scrutinize Israel’s representations about its degree of compliance.


The ruling may havec arguably changed Israel's behaviour. One example will suffice. A couple of days prior to the  ruling, the  IDF allowed the families of the hostages to demonstrate near the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza against the entry of trucks with humanitarian aid into  Gaza, and such entry was stopped .Israeli security officials however now understand as a result of the ICJ ruling they will be required to let the trucks in despite any protests. A UN funded shipment of flour, waiting at the port of Ashdod, which Netanyahu agreed to without the knowledge of his far right Cabinet Ministers, will allow for the re-opening of Gaza bakeries.  Unfortunately, Hamas siphons off much of the aid, and Hamas police create a monopoly with merchants such that goods are sold at higher price and Hamas profits. This will make it harder for Israel to completely rout out Hamas. It should be noted that the Israeli judge on the ICJ Aaron Barak, himself a Holocaust survivor, who dissented in much of the rulings of the ICJ, joined in calling on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.


Allowing in the required aid and potable water into Gaza to comply with the ICJ's ruling, may result in Israel having to fight not only at a lower intensity but  having to allow more and longer humanitarian pauses. 


The European Union already issued a statement saying, "Orders of the International Court of Justice are binding on the parties and they must comply with them. The European Union expects their full, immediate and effective implementation.”


The decision by the ICJ may mean that President Biden, who has been pushing Israel to end the war, will now push even harder and may even may threaten behind the scense to refuse to continue to resupply Israel with  weaponry (In this regard it is worth noting that Israel was looking to Germany to furnish it with more weapons, which suggests that the US can not or will not supply it with everything they need).  It is noteworthy that the American judge went along with the order that it is "plausible" that Israel was committing genocide, and that it needs to allow in far more humanitarian aid. I can't but help thinking this is not an accident. It may be Biden's way behind the scenes of pressuring Netanyahu to shorten the duration of the war. Right wing journalist Caroline Glick reported a few weeks ago that Israel had not wanted to appear before the ICJ, but that Biden pressured it to do so. Netanyahu is on record saying the war will go on for many months, but Biden has pushed back publicly saying he will not support the war going on for that duration. 


Israel is very reliant on the US for military  aid and for political and diplomatican ad and also for political and diplomatic cover at the UN. NBC reported that Biden was considering slowing down re-arming Israel but the US administration denied that.


The ICJ ruling may create more pressure for Netanyahu to focus on making a deal to return the Israeli hostages, even if this means not defeating Hamas. There are cracks in the war cabinet, with Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot favouring a hostage deal, even if this means a lenghty ceasefire, while Netanyahu and  Gallant say only further military action will create enough pressure for the release of the hostages.


Israel has shown proof that there are 12 members of the staff of UNRWA, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine – on whose reports the ICJ court relied when issuing  its interim – took part in Hamas’s 7 October attack. Israel also accuses 190 UN Staff of being  Hamas terroists.This linkage between UNRWA and Hamas terror may make it harder for the ICJ to rely on UNWRA reports going forward.


It is certainly foreseable that there will be inceased international calls for trade sanctions, academic boycotts, and possible arms boycotts against Israel. Some of this may happen quietly behind the scenses without us even knowing.



The fact that their is an ongoing genocide case against Israel unfortunately is likely to  be used by other international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, in their investigations into war crimes and atrocities. Unlike, the ICJ, that Court is able to issue arrest warrants against individuals such as members of the Israeli war cabinet.


Even the Israeli judge Aaron Barak sided with the ICJ in ordering Israel to prosecute any statements made by Israeli politicians or military people that could be considered incitement to genocide. This will mean that in the future Israelis will be far less reckless about their words. 


There will be a rise in antisemitism globally as a result of this ruling.


If there is any war in the north against Hezbollah, it is possible this ruling may affect the way Israel will wage it, as Hezbollah also has weaponry imbedded in the civil population.  


There are allegations by Israel that 12 members of the staff of UNRWA, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine – on whose reports the ICJ court relied when issuing  its interim – took part in Hamas’s 7 October attack. Israel also accuses 190 UN Staff of being  Hamas terroists.This linkage between UNRWA and Hamas terror may make it harder for the ICJ to rely on UNWRA reports going forward.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.