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The United States and Russia made opposing statements on Wednesday during hearings at the International Court of Justice focused on whether Israel’s lengthy occupation of Palestinian-majority territory is legal.

They were among 50 nations expected to address the I.C.J. in the matter — an unusually high number — underscoring the fact that the court, which once focused on staid issues like border disputes, has suddenly become a venue to wade into major, sensitive international issues.

“The I.C.J., which was previously seen as a kind of snoozy backwater of the U.N. system where disputes went to die, is turning into more and more of a platform for states to try to corner each other,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director for the International Crisis Group.

As Russia and the United States each use the court’s newfound prominence to promote their own agendas, they have both accused the other of hypocrisy.

The United States on Wednesday repeated its longstanding defense of Israel’s conduct of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its need to defend itself, while Russia said that need failed to justify Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.

In recent months, the court, the U.N.’s highest judicial body, has also heard preliminary arguments in a case South Africa brought against Israel, accusing it of genocide, while Ukraine and Russia have faced off concerning their war.

The increased politicization of a court created around strictly legal issues makes larger powers uneasy, Mr. Gowan said. Recent cases involving Israel, Ukraine and Myanmar touched on issues that the United States, Russia and China, respectively, consider their bailiwick.

“The I.C.J. is a place where little countries can line up and leverage international law to constrain what big powers and their allies try to do,” Mr. Gowan said.

Ukrainian soldiers fire at a Russian target in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The case regarding the legality of Israel’s occupation was triggered by a General Assembly vote long before the current war. In a separate case brought by South Africa after the war started, the judges have not yet ruled on whether Israel committed genocide, but decreed that Israel must take action to prevent it.

On Wednesday, the United States and Russia did not address each other directly in the courtroom in The Hague. But Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vladimir Tarabrin, criticized the United States several times, calling American policy an impediment to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Both the United States and Russia have repeatedly been accused of employing a double standard at the U.N. in the two conflicts, with the United States not pushing for a cease-fire in Gaza while demanding one in Ukraine, as Russia criticizes Israel for some of the very things Moscow has done in Ukraine.

For example, Ambassador Tarabrin said on Wednesday that the deaths that Israel experienced in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 did not justify the subsequent level of Israeli violence in Gaza. Though the hearing on the legality of Israel’s occupation does not center on Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, much of Russia’s argument focused on the current war there.

“We cannot accept the logic of those officials in Israel and some Western countries who try to defend the indiscriminate violence against civilians by referring to Israel’s duty to protect its nationals,” Mr. Tarabrin said.

Yet the Kremlin has said that it was forced to invade eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians under attack there. The Russian invasion, started in 2022, has devastated dozens of cities, towns and villages across the region and killed thousands of civilians.

Asked about that double standard in an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily A. Nebenzia, mostly dodged the question. He argued that people in the regions annexed by Moscow voted in a referendum in September 2022 to join Russia, a referendum rejected as illegal by most United Nations members.

A vast majority of United Nations members have voted repeatedly to demand that Russia stop the violence in Ukraine. The I.C.J. issued a similar ruling, although earlier this month it rejected many accusations that Ukraine made against Russia in the court, basically saying that its jurisdiction was limited.

In the hearing this week, Israel has declined to take part in the proceedings, and the Russian ambassador stressed that no ruling should be imposed on it. The court is expected to release a nonbinding advisory opinion.

The I.C.J. has no enforcement mechanism — it can only forward its rulings for action to the Security Council. The five permanent members can veto it, as the United States has done repeatedly with Gaza cease-fire resolutions and Russia with attempts to halt the fighting in Ukraine.

Marlise Simons and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.