Palestinians to ask UN General Assembly destruction of Israeli wall
Following their victory in the U.N.'s highest court, the Palestinians will ask the General Assembly next week to demand that Israel destroy the wall it is building to seal off the West Bank.
On Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel's West Bank wall is illegal and should be dismantled. The court also ordered Israel to pay reparations to Palestinians harmed by the barrier and return land seized to construct the wall.
The ICJ, the UN's highest legal body, said it has jurisdiction to rule on the legality of the barrier, which Israel is building.
In his opening words, the president of the ICJ, Judge Shi Jiuyong of China, said the court had the jurisdiction to give an advisory opinion requested by the UN General Assembly.
"The Court cannot accept the view..that it has no jurisdiction because of the 'political' character of the question posed..." he said. "The court accordingly has jurisdiction to give the advisory opinion."
By this, the court dismissed Israeli objections that the U.N. General Assembly acted irregularly in asking the court for an advisory opinion. It also rebuffed Israel's argument - supported by the United States and several European countries - that the court should refrain from interfering because the issue was political, not legal, and could disrupt peace efforts.
The court said that the wall could become tantamount to annexation of Palestinian land if it is completed and that it impeded the Palestinians' right to self-rule.
"The Court considers that the construction of the wall and its associate regime creates a 'fait accompli' on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, and notwithstanding the formal characterization by Israel, it would be tantamount to de facto annexation," the court said.
"That construction, along with measures previously taken, thus severely impeded the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination."
"The court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall, and its associated regime, are contrary to international laws."
"The court is of the view that the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall."
The judges were united in backing the decisions, with a vote of 14 to 1 for most paragraphs. Only an American judge dissented.
Palestinians called Friday's decision "historic." "The international high court decided clearly today that this racist wall is illegal to the root and Israel should stop building it and take down what has already been built of this wall. We welcome this decision," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said.
He praised the ruling bysaying "This is an historic day and a historic decision."
"The court has said to the world, to Israel and to the United States that the wall is illegal as it is built on other people's land, on occupied territory."
"Israel is in violation of international law, of international legitimacy, and the General Assembly now will be called upon to look into this matter," said Ambassador Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League's U.N. representative.
On its part, Israel said the court ruling has totally ignored "Palestinian terorism," which was the main factor behind the wall's construction, an Israeli government statement said.
"If there was no terrorism, there would have been no fence," said the statement, which said that the court did "not have the competence to debate the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
"This criminal terrorism has left over the last three and a half years nearly 1,000 (Israeli) people dead and tens of thousands wounded in more than 20,000 attacks.
"No country would have acted differently in the face of such a criminal campaign. "Since the erection of the barrier, the number of victims has fallen substantially. The barrier is working."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan denounced the decision, saying the United States believed the dispute should be resolved politically. "We've always said that is not the appropriate form to resolve what is a political issue," he said. (albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)