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U.S. defends Israeli security at ICJ hearing on occupation of Palestinian lands

U.S. State Department official Richard Visek told the International Court of Justice Wednesday it should not issue an advisory opinion requiring unconditional withdrawal by Israel without considering Israel's "legitimate security needs." Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen/EPA-EFE
U.S. State Department official Richard Visek told the International Court of Justice Wednesday it should not issue an advisory opinion requiring unconditional withdrawal by Israel without considering Israel's "legitimate security needs." Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen/EPA-EFE

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The United States Wednesday defended Israel's security needs as the International Court of Justice considers an advisory opinion on Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

During the third day of hearings at The Hague, U.S. State Department official Richard Visek testified that the court's advisory opinion should not call for a "unilateral, immediate and unconditional withdrawal by Israel that does not account for Israel's legitimate security needs."

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"Any movement toward Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza requires consideration of Israel's very real security needs," Visek said.

Fifty-two countries are before the ICJ arguing for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem and an end to its control over Gaza.

The hearings are based on a U.N. General Assembly request for a non-binding advisory opinion on whether Israel's occupied Palestinian territory policies are legal under international law.

Palestine's Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told the ICJ that Israel's occupation amounts to colonialism and apartheid. He said territory maps show progressive loss of Palestinian territories since 1920 as Israeli occupation continues.

Visek told the court the United States is intensively engaged with multiple nations "not only to address the current crisis but to get beyond where we have been, namely to advance a political settlement that will lead to a durable peace in the region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians and a path to Palestinian statehood."

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He said there is broad international support for a two-state negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that gives rise to "a Palestinian state, a solution in which two peoples live side-by-side with equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity and dignity."

Visek said both withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory and security guarantees are necessary for a just and lasting peace. He said Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands depends on the end of belligerency.

He testified that two interdependent requirements are necessary for true peace.

"One is the withdrawal of forces from the occupied territory. And the other is peace and security for the states in the Middle East through the acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area," Visek said.

South Africa and other nations are calling for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories in the case.

In a Jan. 26 order on the Gaza genocide question, the ICJ said Israel must abide by obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in its actions against Palestinians in Gaza.

The court said that includes taking all measures within its power to prevent killing Palestinians and "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

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