The United States defended Israel’s prolonged dominance of the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Wednesday, asserting at the top U.N. court that Israel confronted “very real security needs.”

This defense came after the United States cast its third veto against a demand for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza at the United Nations Security Council, prompting an angry reaction from nations and aid groups advocating for an end to the hostilities to assist Gaza’s civilians.

The latest demonstration of American backing for Israel took place at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Richard C. Visek, the acting legal adviser at the U.S. State Department, urged a 15-judge panel not to urge Israel’s prompt withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory.

He contended that only the establishment of an independent Palestinian state “living safely and securely alongside” Israel could bring about enduring peace, echoing a long-standing U.S. position, but the likelihood of this happening appears increasingly remote in the midst of the conflict in Gaza.

“This conflict cannot be solved through violence or independent actions,” Mr. Visek remarked. “Negotiations are the route to a lasting peace.”

The court is in the midst of six days of debates on the legality of Israel’s dominion over Palestinian-majority regions, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which has been the subject of extensive discussions and resolutions at the U.N. The hearings, involving over 50 countries, were convened well before Israel engaged in warfare against Hamas in Gaza, but have become part of a concerted global effort to halt the conflict and scrutinize the legality of Israel’s approaches towards Palestinians.

Even as the judges listened to arguments in the dignified wood-paneled courtroom in the Netherlands, the dynamics of the Israeli occupation were unfolding on the ground in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday. During an overnight incursion that the Israeli military stated was aimed at combating “terrorism,” Israeli forces eliminated three individuals and apprehended at least 14 others.

Jenin, a refugee camp of over 70 years that has now transformed into a densely populated locality, has long been a focal point of armed resistance against Israel’s dominance. Military raids by the Israeli forces, although frequent for many years, have become considerably more regular since the Hamas-led assault on Israel on Oct. 7, which Israeli authorities claim resulted in approximately 1,200 casualties.

Israel has detained hundreds of Palestinians in West Bank raids in recent months. Lethal attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers have reached unprecedented levels, and assaults on Israelis by Palestinians have also risen, underscoring the urgency of the proceedings in The Hague.

Later on Wednesday, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, cautioned that Israel was gearing up to operate in the Gazan city of Rafah, near the southern border, once civilians were evacuated from there. He added that if an agreement to release the captives still held in Gaza was not reached, the Israeli military would persist with operations during the holy month of Ramadan, commencing in March.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter in Rafah after being displaced from their homes due to the conflagration in Gaza. The global community has condemned Israel’s intention to invade the city due to the large number of people taking refuge there.

“The way we react today will be scrutinized by history,” Jasmine Moussa, the legal adviser to Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared before the court on Wednesday as she advocated for “the Palestinian people’s inherent, enduring, and unqualified right to self-determination.”

“One only has to observe Israel’s ruthless wholesale devastation of Gaza today after years of imposing medieval strategies, a siege, and blockade, to comprehend the extent of Israel’s violation of this principle,” she said.

The hearings mark the first occasion that the court has been solicited to provide an advisory assessment on the Israeli occupation. The U.N. General Assembly called upon the court to review the legality of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories over a year ago, prior to Israel’s confrontation with Hamas in Gaza, resulting in over 29,000 casualties, according to health authorities in Gaza.

Israel has declared that it would not partake in the hearings and dispatched a letter to the court last year challenging their validity and neglecting to “acknowledge Israel’s right and obligation to safeguard its citizens” or its right to security.

The United States has staunchly defended Israel’s campaign in Gaza, initiated following the Oct. 7 assaults. Nevertheless, though U.S. officials have also encouraged Israel to curtail its military endeavor and take greater measures to protect civilians, the American support for Israel has increasingly put it at odds even with steadfast allies like France, Canada, and Japan.

Its isolation was evident on Tuesday at the U.N. Security Council, where it cast the sole veto against a resolution advocating for an immediate cease-fire, contending that it would disrupt efforts to liberate hostages held in Gaza. Thirteen other nations supported the resolution, and Britain abstained.

On Wednesday, Mr. Visek, the State Department legal adviser, implored the U.N. court to uphold the “established framework” for peace, which he stated U.N. entities had endorsed — one contingent upon a “wider end to hostility” against Israel — rather than heed calls from other nations for Israel’s “unilateral and absolute withdrawal” from occupied territories.

The Oct. 7 Hamas-led assaults on Israel served as a reminder of the threats confronting the country and its security needs, Mr. Visek remarked, “and they persist.”

“Unfortunately, many of the participants have chosen to overlook these needs when asserting how the court should deliberate on the questions before it,” he said, referring to the testimonies of other countries presented during the hearings.

Mr. Visek’s statement was followed directly by that of Vladimir Tarabrin, Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands.

When he took the floor, Mr. Tarabrin expressed Russia’s appreciation for its “stable relations” with Israel and extended condolences in light of the events on Oct. 7. However, in what appeared to be an indirect criticism of the United States, he stated that Russia “cannot accept the rationale” of those who “seek to justify the indiscriminate violence against civilians” in Gaza by invoking Israel’s right to self-defense.

“Violence will only breed more violence,” he asserted. Mr. Tarabrin censured Israel for many of the same things for which Russia has been accused of perpetrating in its conflict in Ukraine, includingannexation, expulsion, movements of populations and other breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

Both Russia and the United States have utilized the hearings to advance their respective agendas, and each has accused the other of double standards.

These nations have faced accusations of applying inconsistent principles at the U.N., with the United States refraining from advocating for a cease-fire in Gaza while demanding one in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia has criticized Israel for some behaviors it has itself exhibited in Ukraine.

The court, typically dealing with formal disputes among nations, has recently become a platform for states to oppose Israel. South Africa, for instance, argued last month at the court that Israel was perpetrating genocide against Palestinians in Gaza — an accusation strongly refuted by Israel. While the judges have not made a ruling on the claim, they have issued an interim order for Israel to take measures to prevent genocide in Gaza.

On Tuesday, South Africa denounced Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, labeling them as “a more extreme form of apartheid,” referencing the race-based system of laws that marginalized Black South Africans for decades.

Israel has consistently refuted allegations of operating an apartheid system, dismissing such claims as slander and pointing to what it asserts is a history of being unfairly targeted for condemnation by U.N. bodies and tribunals.

The United States has remained the most steadfast proponent of Israel internationally. However, the Biden administration, facing mounting pressure from segments of the Democratic Party, has also exhibited signs of frustration with Israel’s conduct of the conflict, the escalating toll in Gaza, and the plight of Palestinians under Israeli control.

President Biden stated this month that Israel’s military response in Gaza had been “excessive” and that the extensive civilian suffering needed to “cease.” These comments came days after Mr. Biden imposed comprehensive financial sanctions against four Israeli men over violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

Following the hearings, set to conclude on Monday, the court will issue a nonbinding, advisory opinion. It is anticipated that this decision will take several months.