For a long time now, but for the U.S. veto and political blockage, Israel would have been sanctioned by the United Nations, and rightly so. Indeed if it had happened in the past we might not be facing this greater crisis now. The time is long overdue. The time has come.
World Court to Rule Israeli Barrier Violates Law
Court Will Say Israeli 'Security Fence' Must Be Dismantled
By Keith Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 9, 2004; 8:20 AM
PARIS, July 9 -- The International Court of Justice in the Hague is set to rule later Friday that Israel's "security fence" being constructed on occupied West Bank land is illegal, violates the human rights of Palestinians and must be dismantled, according to advanced copies of the decision leaked to the news media, Palestinian officials and the European Union.
The court is also expected to order that Palestinians whose land had been confiscated for the building of the barrier should be compensated, and it will call on countries not to give aid or support to Israel in building the fence.
"Israel is under an obligation to . . . cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated," the court said, according to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, saying it had an advance copy of the ruling.
Haaretz, which first reported the court's expected decision on its Web site, said the ruling was 14-to-1, with the court's only American judge, Thomas Buergenthal, siding with Israel. The ruling, coming at the request of the U.N. General Assembly, is called an "advisory opinion" and is nonbinding.
But the International Court's opinions do carry moral and political weight, and past decisions, such as its 1971 ruling against South Africa's occupation of Namibia, have been used to pressure governments in the court of public opinion.
The White House dismissed the ruling, saying it didnít think it was the right forum for addressing the issue, according to the Reuters news service.
"We do not believe that that's the appropriate forum to resolve what is a political issue. This is an issue that should be resolved through the process that has been put in place," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said aboard Air Force One as President Bush was en route to a campaign tour in Pennsylvania.
Israeli government officials have argued that the fence is necessary to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from infiltrating Israel from the West Bank, and they point to the dramatic drop in suicide attacks over the last 18 months, since the wall has been under construction. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who first conceived of the wall, has also called it a temporary solution to ongoing Palestinian attacks against Israel.
But Palestinians have denounced the construction of the fence, which cuts deep into West Bank territory to encompass Jewish settlements, as a stealth attempt by Israel to grab more Palestinian land. They say its construction is hurting attempts to find a negotiated solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Palestinians said if the only Israeli interest was security, they could have built the wall along the internationally accepted "Green Line," Israel's pre-war 1967 border.
The 425-mile long wall is actually a series of barbed wire and electronic fences, ditches, and in some places huge concrete slabs. About 120 miles of it has been built so far. While Israelis prefer to call it a "security fence" or "barrier," Palestinians have called it an "apartheid wall" meant to keep the two peoples forever separated.
Last week, Israel's own Supreme Court ruled that while Israel had legitimate security needs that allowed the construction of the wall, the government had to reroute portions that were causing undo hardships to Palestinians, cutting them off from their farmland, their schools and their hospitals. That decision pertained to only one small section of the wall, north of Jerusalem. But it established a principle that Israeli security needs must be balanced against the suffering caused to the Palestinians in building the barrier.
The International Court in the Hague is expected to go even further than the Israeli High Court, saying it was "not convinced that the specific course Israel has chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security objectives," according to the Haaretz account of the pending decision.
The newspaper said the ruling would say, "The wall, along its route chosen . . . gravely infringes a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order."
Israeli officials, fearing exactly such an international rebuke, attempted to discredit the court even before the ruling became known. Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told Army Radio that the Hague court consisted of judges "from the European Union who are not suspected of being particularly disposed towards Israel."
The court's decision will now go to the U.N. General Assembly, where Palestinian and Arab diplomats will likely press for a resolution ordering Israel to comply with the ruling, or face international sanctions . This was the route taken by the 1971 ruling against apartheid South Africa over its occupation of Namibia, fueling the drive for sanctions.
The issue could end up before the Security Council, where Israel is hoping America will use its veto to forestall any attempt to impose sanctions.