The United Nations General Assembly, which includes 193 members, asked the International Court of Justice to give an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas where the Palestinians want a state, in the 1967 war.
It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but imposes a blockade on the Strip, while Egypt tightens procedures on the border with the Strip.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the highest court of the United Nations dealing with disputes between states. Its provisions are binding, although it does not have the power to enforce them.
The request to express an opinion on the issue of “the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories” came in response to a draft resolution submitted by the Palestinian representative to the United Nations General Assembly, which voted on it by a majority of 87 votes.
Israel, the United States and 24 other members voted against the resolution, while 53 abstained.
“No international body can decide that the Jewish people are an ‘occupied people’ in their homeland. Any decision by a judicial body that receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN is completely illegitimate,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement before the vote.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who was replaced by Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, urged world leaders last month to oppose the move, saying that taking the case to court would “help only the extremists”.
The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, indicated that the vote came one day after the formation of the new right-wing Israeli government, whose agenda is settlement expansion and other policies that are criticized at home and abroad.
Mansour told the General Assembly, “We are confident that you will support the court’s fatwa when it is issued if you believe in international legitimacy and international law.”
Among the most prominent countries that voted against the resolution: the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Estonia and Germany, in addition to Israel.
The United Nations General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of “the Israeli occupation, settlement and annexation… including measures aimed at changing the demographic composition and status of the city of Jerusalem and Israel’s adoption of discriminatory legislation and measures to perpetuate this policy.”
The UN resolution also asked the International Court of Justice to provide advice on how these policies and practices affect the legal status of the occupation and what legal consequences arise from this situation for all countries and the United Nations.
The last time the International Court of Justice addressed the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was in 2004, when it ruled that the Israeli separation wall was illegal. Israel rejected this ruling and accused the court of having political motives.
The General Assembly ratifies the decisions of its various committees at the end of November or the beginning of December, when the committees submit their reports and recommendations.
Israel opposes any intervention by the United Nations or international institutions, especially legal ones, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides sponsored by the United States stalled in 2014.