Israel: UN Engaging in 'Moral Relativism'

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

Jerusalem ( - Israel on Tuesday blasted the United Nations General Assembly's decision to seek advice from an international court on the legality of a security barrier being built between Israel and the West Bank.

Israel said the U.N. resolution, which doesn't mention terrorism, smacks of 'moral relativism.'

The resolution was passed in an emergency session on Monday by a vote of 90-8, with 74 abstentions. The resolution asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to weigh the "legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power."

Those opposing the resolution were the U.S., Israel, Micronesia, Australia, Ethiopia, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau.

The resolution was proposed by 27 Arab, Muslim and non-aligned states after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the construction of the barrier a "deeply counterproductive act."

The resolution calls on and delivers its own judgment, saying that "Israel...continues to refuse to comply with international law vis-a-vis its construction of the above-mentioned wall, with all its detrimental implications and consequences."

Dr. Dore Gold, senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, charged that adoption of the resolution highlighted the politicization of the U.N. against Israel.

"Israel has had to face over the last 30 years the politicization of the U.N. bodies, including the General Assembly," Gold said in a telephone interview.

"The fact that [the General Assembly] adopted a resolution condemning the fence but hasn't lifted a finger to condemn terror attacks against Israeli civilians only demonstrates the moral relativism that [exists in] the U.N. General Assembly," said Gold, who was Israel's ambassador to the U.N. from 1997-99.

"The question is whether the International Court of Justice, by getting involved in giving an advisory opinion, will allow itself to be politicized," he said. Gold added that Israel would study the resolution and its implications, taking into account other advisory opinions rendered by the court for the General Assembly in the past.

The Palestinian Authority described the resolution as "a victory for justice and international law... It is a message from the international community to Israel to stop its aggression and to stop building the wall," the PA said in a statement.

But Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman also claimed a small success, calling it a "moral victory" because "most of the world's enlightened democracies" did not support the resolution, while those who did were "mostly tyrannical dictatorships, corrupt and human-rights defying regimes."

A court official in The Hague explained that the court handles two kinds of procedures, including disputes between two countries, and advisory opinions on behalf of the U.N. and its member organizations.

Since its inception in 1946, about one-third of the court's rulings have been advisory in nature, while two-thirds have been resolution of contentious issues between states.

It is unclear how long it will take the court to issue its opinion on the Israeli security barrier.

The official said that normally it is not a quick procedure but that this time the resolution asked the court to render its opinion urgently. She said that the court might even take the unprecedented step of waiving the written part of the proceeding and going straight to the oral section.

On Tuesday, members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called for the route of the fence to be altered, to reduce international pressures on Israel.

Members of the Shinui party said they would ask Sharon to change the route of the fence at the next cabinet meeting.

Israel argues that the barrier is purely a security measure. But Palestinians charge that it is a political wall intended to grab land away from a future Palestinian state.

The fence juts into the West Bank in several places to encompass Israeli settlements, cutting off Palestinian farmers from their land and others from village centers and schools.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer said Washington understands the need for Israel to build a fence but wants to see it built closer to the Green Line - the invisible ceasefire boundary between Israel and Jordan until 1967.

"There is a very strong understanding in Washington of why the fence is being built and the support that it has, and we don't have an argument with that, but we do have a view that we've expressed about the route of the fence," Kurtzer said in a radio interview.

"Frankly the closer it is to the green line, the less you will hear from Washington with respect to the fence," he said.

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