World Court Decision Fails To Address Palestinian Terror, Israel Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague failed to address the reason why Israel needed to build a security fence in the first place: Palestinian terrorism, the Israeli government said late Friday in response to the court ruling.

The ICJ began at 3:00 p.m. (9:00 a.m. ET) to read its non-binding advisory opinion on the legality of Israel's security barrier. In December, the United Nations General Assembly asked the ICJ to deliver a ruling on the legality of the fence.

In February, Israel boycotted three days of hearings in The Hague arguing that the World Court had no jurisdiction to rule in the case - an opinion shared by the U.S. and many other Western nations.

Although the reading of the decision, carried live on the Internet was supposed to take several hours, less than an hour into the oration the Israeli government issued its response in English and Hebrew at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

"The International Court of Justice was asked to address the question of Israel's security fence as a result of a politically-motivated maneuver, which Israel and over thirty leading democracies did not support," said the government statement read by Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled.

"Israel cannot accept this politicization of the Court. As expected...the advisory opinion fails to address the essence of the problem and the very reason for building the fence - Palestinian terror. If there were no terror, there would be no fence," Peled said.

"This Palestinian terror has taken the lives of nearly one thousand Israelis in over twenty thousand attacks over the last three and a half years, wounding thousands more, leaving broken families, widows and orphans. No other country would act differently in the face of such an evil campaign," he added.

While the fence is reversible, the loss of life is not and the fence has significantly decreased the number of casualties, Peled said.

Israel says the fence is responsible for a decrease of 90 percent in terror attacks during the last 11 months since the erection of the barrier began in August 2003.

Palestinians charge that the fence is part of a political land grab designed to take land they want to become part of a future state.

They also complain that the fence, which winds its way in and out of the West Bank to surround Jewish communities and take positions on the high ground cuts farmers off from their lands and inconveniences the Palestinian population in many places separating them from schools and community services.

Hours before the court's opinion was delivered leaked segments of the ruling entitled "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory appeared on the Internet.

According to those reports, the ICJ said it is "not convinced that the specific course Israel has chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security."

Using the language adopted by the Palestinians to describe the barrier, calling it a "wall," the ICJ said the route and its regime "gravely infringe a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel."

(In actuality, less than five percent of the barrier is made from concrete slabs while the rest is a complex of electronic fence, barbed wire and security roads.)

The ruling said that in building the wall Israel had breached its various obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights instruments and while Israel has the right and duty to protect the life of its citizens, nevertheless it must conform to international law.

Therefore, the ICJ said, Israel must dismantle the fence "situated within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem" and compensate Palestinians for any damaged caused.

Judge Shi Jiuyong of China, who read out the opinion, said that contrary to Israel's argument, the court did have jurisdiction to issue an opinion in the case.

According to reports, the sole dissenting voice in the 15-judge panel was American judge Thomas Buerghenthal.

Israel argued on Friday that its own Supreme Court is acting as a watchdog to balance between Israel's security needs and the humanitarian rights of the Palestinians.

Israel's High Court said last week that Israel had a right to build a security fence but ruled in favor of petitions from several Palestinian villages and their inhabitants prohibiting the army from confiscating land and forcing the government to re-route the fence along a 24-mile stretch near Jerusalem.

"The fact that every individual affected by the fence has the right to directly petition Israel's Supreme Court ensures legal recourse without the need for outside involvement," Peled said.

Israel also called on the Palestinians to end their ?campaign of terror? and return to negotiations and called on the international community ?not to lend their hand to the ongoing Palestinian attempts to use international fora to avoid fulfilling their own commitment to fight terror.?

Terror Victims Respond

Yossi Medellvich, 53, lost his 13-year-old son Yuval in a suicide bombing of Bus number 37 in Haifa in March 2003. The terrorist made his way from Hebron south of Jerusalem through West Bank and onto Haifa, where he murdered 17 people.

"No doubt if the fence would exist in 2003, I would not [be standing] here," Medellvich said. "No doubt the fence would stop this malicious murderer."

"I'm not surprised. I have to tell my story. I think it helps," said Rachel Korn, who lost her husband and two sons, aged 14 and 18 in a suicide bombing at the Matza restaurant in Haifa two years ago.

Dr. David Zanger, a pediatrician, works at two Jerusalem hospitals where he treats both Israeli and Palestinian children, including Israeli victims of suicide bombings. He was part of Israel's public relations delegation to The Hague in February.

"To me it's very sad to hear that the world in one way does not care about people who are going to pay with their lives [for] such decisions...and not only on the Israeli side but also on the Palestinian side. And these are people that are ignoring the effectiveness of this fence," Zanger said.

"I know in some ways both sides," said Zanger. "I am so much for the fence because I know that it prevents the loss of life on both sides, because I believe that when you have the fence it is preventive. It is effective, and [when] less Israelis are killed and murdered also less Palestinians will be murdered and killed...

"If you want to rescue the lives of people and how many lives you will save, that is why you need this fence....They should know its moveable. When there is peace you can destroy it in a day. It's not a big deal," he said.

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