Israel May Make 'Minor Changes' In Route of Security Fence

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is considering altering the route of a security fence it is building between Israel and the West Bank, but the decision has nothing to do with the upcoming hearing about the legality of the fence in the International Court of Justice, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Monday.

The changes are intended to ease the humanitarian plight of the Palestinians but would not include major changes such as leaving large settlements on the outside, said Zalman Shoval, Sharon's senior foreign policy advisor.

"The Prime Minister is considering some possible minor changes which have been under consideration...for several months because of human aspects," Shoval said on Monday.

They would be intended to "alleviate the situation" decreasing the number of checkpoints and increasing gates, Shoval said by telephone.

Israel has come under international condemnation for the route of the barrier because it weaves into the West Bank to envelope larger Jewish communities, cutting off some Palestinians from schools, properties and towns.

Palestinians charge that Israel is intending to seize land that it wants for a future state. Israel claims it is only an effective security measure to hinder the entrance of terrorists into Israel built on leased, not confiscated, land and points to a decrease in terrorist attacks in areas where the fence has been completed.

Larger settlements such as Ariel, a city of 18,000 residents, were supposed to be included within the barrier. Those plans will not change, Shoval said.

According to Shoval, the alterations in the route of the barrier have nothing to do with international or American pressure or the upcoming hearing in the ICJ in The Hague.

The possible changes are in line with concerns that Washington has expressed for months, long before the United Nations General Assembly referred the issue to the ICJ, he said.

"The American concern with humanitarian [aspects was] expressed as long ago as two or three months ago," Shoval said. "The whole thing preceded the international court issue at The Hague."

The total number of Palestinians on the "wrong side" of the fence, he said, is about 50,000. "Some of them are inconvenienced," he said. Israel sees no reason not to resolve these issues, he added. Nevertheless, "not every complaint can be solved," he added.

Forty-nine countries have filed briefs with the ICJ. According to Shoval, the only non-Arab country that filed a brief in favor of the Palestinians was North Korea.

Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said that Israel must decide by the end of this week whether or not it will send representatives to appear before the court.

The decision will be made by a ministerial committee headed by the prime minister and will depend a lot on the briefs that were submitted by other countries, he said.

Meanwhile, two Israeli groups filed petitions with Israel's High Court on Monday. Moked, the Center for Defense of the Individual argues against the route of the fence, saying it should be placed along the 1967 Green Line. The Fence for Life non-profit organization is arguing on the government's side in favor of the fence.