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World Court Orders Israel to Tear Down Barrier

The International Court of Justice in The Hague issued a non-binding opinion Friday that the entire barrier Israel is erecting along its border with the Palestinian territories should be removed.

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    For nearly two years, Israel has been building a controversial security barrier between itself and the Palestinian West Bank. In some places, it consists of checkpoints, armed watchtowers, and 25-foot-high concrete walls. In other places, it's a razor- wire fence with electronic sensors and security cameras. About one-quarter of the projected 440-mile barrier has been built so far, but rather than following the so-called green line– the unofficial pre- 1967 war border– the current fence and its projected future path frequently carve into Palestinian areas on the West Bank to protect Jewish settlements nearby. Israeli officials say the fence is vitally needed to protect the Israeli public from Palestinian suicide bombers. The Palestinians say it's an illegal land grab of territory that should be theirs for a future state.

    Two courts have now ruled, at least partly, in the Palestinians' favor. On June 30, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israel did have the right to erect the barrier for security reasons, but it said that one disputed stretch had to be rerouted because it was causing undue hardship to 35,000 Palestinians by cutting them off from their farms, schools and hospitals. Last Friday, the international court of justice in the Hague went further. It ruled 14-1 in a non-binding advisory opinion that the entire barrier is illegal and must be dismantled.


    In conclusion, the court considers that Israel cannot rely on the right of self defense or on a state of a necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall. The court accordingly finds that construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law.


    Israeli officials said they would comply with their own Supreme Court's ruling, but flatly rejected the opinion of the international court.


    We will continue to build the security fence because it keeps the security of the people of the state of Israel. After 20,000 terrorist attacks, more than 1,000 casualties, tens of thousands of wounded people, cripples, orphans, widows, we don't have any other choice. We will do everything to keep the life of the Israelis. While the fence is reversible, human lives are irreversible.


    Palestinians cheered the international court's decision and threatened to take the matter to the U.N.


    We will follow up with the United Nations, with the general assembly, with the Security Council, until we will see that all the international community, all the world, are using all their will and pressure on the Israeli government to dismantle this wall.


    Sunday, months of quiet in Israel ended when a bomb exploded in Tel Aviv, killing one Israeli and wounding 30. Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon invited Labor Party leader Shimon Peres to form a coalition government. Sharon is facing growing defections within his current Likud-led government over another aspect of his separation strategy: A plan to withdraw all troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip by late next year.

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