Powell says Israel proved fence reduces terror

Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters


July 10, 2004

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday that Israel has proved that since the separation fence was built it has managed to reduce infiltration by terrorists, Israel Radio reported early Saturday.

The UN's turning the to International Court of Justice was inappropriate, Powell said, adding that the court's ruling on the legality of the fence was not binding.

Powell stressed that Washington was not satisfied with the barrier's route, but that Jerusalem was sensitive to the U.S. position, as to the aspects reviewed by Israel's High Court of Justice. Israel must not use the fence in order to predetermine its permanent borders, Powell added.

New York's two senators, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, joined Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, in front of UN headquarters on Friday to denounce the ruling.

"It makes no sense for the United Nations to vehemently oppose a fence which is a non-violent response to terrorism rather than opposing terrorism itself," Clinton said to a crowd of about 100 people.

The White House on Friday brushed aside the ICJ ruling, saying it didn't think it was the right forum for addressing the issue.

"We do not believe that that's the appropriate forum to resolve what is a political issue. This is an issue that should be resolved through the process that has been put in place, specifically the road map," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said aboard Air Force One as President George W. Bush was en route to a campaign tour in Pennsylvania.

"We certainly recognize the need for Israel to defend itself and protect the people of Israel. It's also important that they allow the Palestinian people to move freely within that region," McClellan told reporters.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher after the World Court announced its decision said "we don't think there's a need for (UN) General Assembly action at this point."

"We think the efforts of the parties ought to be placed on seizing the opportunity that can be created for progress on the road map," he added.

The European Commission said that the court appeared to have confirmed the European Union's view that the fence is illegal and urged the Israelis to remove it from occupied territory.

"The European Union continues to call on Israel to remove the barrier from inside the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem," European Commission Spokesman Jean Christophe Filori said.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the International Court's ruling was non-binding, Israel Radio reported Saturday. "France will study the court-issued document and will consult its European partners on the issue," the statement read.

Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry said he was disappointed with the court's decision, Israel Radio reported late Friday.

Kerry said Israel's separation fence was a legitimate measure in view of its security needs and its wish to defend itself against terrorist attacks.

The National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, said, "We thought for a moment the court would rise above prejudice, but as it turns out, it didn't."

The ruling was meant to be a critical moment not only for Israel but also for the court's legitimacy, Foxman added.

Jordan, a key litigant before the ICJ, hailed the ruling, saying it carried "large legal, ethical and political weight."

"The ICJ's ruling, that was adopted with a large majority of 14 judges out of 15, represents a large legal, ethical and political weight which Israel cannot ignore," Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said.

"The decision indicates that the tribunal has accepted all Jordanian arguments and rejected all pretexts cited by Israel, which alleged the construction of the wall was a strategic requirement necessitated by security considerations," he added.

Muasher said that his government was "appraising the implications of the decision with a view to taking all necessary steps to urge Israel to implement the ruling."

Malaysia's foreign minister said Saturday that Israel should follow the ruling of the International Court of Justice and tear down its West Bank security fence.

Syed Hamid Albar also lauded the UN court's decision to condemn Israel's long-running occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Malaysia calls upon the United Nations to urgently consider further action required to bring to an end the illegal situation," Syed Hamid said. "The international community ... expects Israel, as the occupying power, to respect the decision of the court."