World Court Ruling against Israeli Barrier – Green Light for Palestinian Terror

The Palestinians timed one of their last effective terror attacks for the day before the international court at The Hague began hearing the Palestinian petition against Israel’s defense barrier. On February 22, a suicide bomber killed 8 Israelis and injured 62 by blowing up a bus outside Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel.
Sunday, July 11, two days after the court ruled the barrier illegal, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the suicide arm of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, closed the circle by detonating a medium-sized bomb in rush hour traffic at a Tel Aviv bus stop, killing a 20-year old Israeli girl soldier and injuring another 40 commuters, 4 of them seriously. Even the first third of the 600-km fence (West Bank plus Jerusalem) so far constructed almost certainly helped prevent a suicide bomber from committing a larger, deadlier attack. Interestingly, this latest bombing, aired almost immediately by Hizballah television, was claimed also by the “Abu Mussa” group, a rejectionist pro-Syrian faction that broke away from Arafat’s mainstream Fatah some two decades ago.
Fourteen judges of The Hague International Court, against the single dissenting vote cast by the American judge Thomas Buergenthal, decided that construction of “the wall” was contrary to international law and infringed on Palestinian rights to land occupied by Israel in 1967. The court, called for it to be removed and compensation paid.
Israel does not recognize the court’s authority and in any case its opinions are nonbinding except as recommendations to the UN General Assembly.
debkafile‘s political analysts believe that the negative pro-Palestinian opinion handed down against Israel’s security fence was not inescapable or pre-ordained. The Israeli government’s stubborn decision not to present its case tilted it in the Palestinians’ favor. Instead of protesting fruitlessly outside the courthouse, the victims of Palestinian terror, not all of them Israeli citizens, should have been inside depicting the Palestinian authority’s campaign of suicidal terror and genocidal motives as the rationale for the non-violent barrier.
Though advisory, the world court’s decision is hugely damaging to Israel’s moral and international standing. The judges, five of them from European Union countries, stood on a ladder set under their feet by Israel’s own supreme court, which on June 30 explicitly placed the welfare of Palestinian inhabitants along the barrier route ahead of Israeli citizens’ right to be protected against suicidal terrorists. (See June 30 debkafile article on this page)
The Israeli court, presided over by Chief justice Aharon Barak, set the world tribunal an example by making no demands of any Palestinians, only Israel’s defense authorities. The Palestinians who benefited from the two judgments were not required either to desist from terrorism against their Israeli neighbors or even to close their land to the passage of terrorists, as a pre-condition for re-routing the fence to satisfy their interests and convenience. At the same time, Israel’s military was ordered to defer to the humanitarian needs of Palestinians.
The Sharon government made haste to comply, offering to tear down three quarters of the Jerusalem fence.
The Hague court had that precedent in hand in good time. The judges also took advantage of the diplomatic inertia afflicting the Israeli government since prime minister Ariel Sharon conceived his disengagement plan. He is clinging to the goal of evacuating all Gaza Strip settlements and four locations in the West Bank by the end of 2005, even after failing to ram it through any elected institution – cabinet, ruling party or Knesset.
This stubborn campaign has serious weakened his government.
All in all, the disarray of Israel’s governing administration conferred on the failed and feud-ridden Palestinian Authority headed by Yasser Arafat a rare diplomatic and moral victory in the violent confrontation he has waged against Israel for more than four years and encourages him to go on.
Indeed Israel’s entire political establishment, government and opposition alike, is falling apart under the stifling rule of geriatric leaders with no heirs presumptive in sight.
Flat hostility to the prime minister’s policies ties the governing Likud’s institutions hand and foot. Sharon at the age of 76 may declare his intention of running for prime minister in the next election, but he cannot count on being nominated by Likud in its present mood or format. His foremost rival Binyamin Netanyahu has forfeited the trust of the low-earning and middle class segments of the electorate by his arrant favoritism for the moneyed classes. Intrigue and divisions in the opposition Labor party keep its 81-year old leader Shimon Peres hopping between petty revolts and defections. Rumbles of discontent are audible even in the newly formed far-left Yahad, where Geneva Accords author Yossi Beilin is accused of reducing the once dynamic Meretz, its primary integer, to virtual stagnancy.
Most recently, the stuffing was knocked out of Shinui and its 74-year old leader, justice minister Tommy Lapid, by the disclosure that one of its top three, energy and infrastructure minister Yosef Paritzky, conspired with a private investigator to ruin his colleague, interior minister Avraham Poraz. The attempt made two years ago led nowhere but was secretly taped. Aired last week by Israeli TV Channel One, the record of skullduggery in its own ranks shattered Shinui, a new party that made its campaign debut on a political cleanup ticket. At Lapid’s insistence, Sharon dropped Paritzky from the government Sunday, July 11, in disgrace. He will not go quietly. Holding on to his Knesset seat, he is angry enough to add his gun to the barrage of no confidence motions besetting the government since Sharon began dropping ministers to fabricate a cabinet majority for disengagement.
Two months ago, he sacked both National Union ministers to balance the vote in his favor, thereby forfeiting seven precious NU Knesset members. Two National Religious Party ministers resigned in protest against the prime minister’s avowed intention of removing settlements. One minister, Zvulun Orlev stayed in the government in defiance of party leader, Effie Eytam, leaving the NRP’s six Knesset members hopelessly divided.
Cabinet endorsement for the bare bones of disengagement has cost the Sharon coalition its parliamentary majority. His 59-member support will shrink further to 58 whenever Paritzky seeks to exact revenge on the prime minister who axed him and his own party. In real terms, the government can rarely count on more than 56 supporters in the 120-member Knesset – provided Likud rebels do not absent themselves from votes. The opposition too has trouble mustering the necessary 61 votes to overthrow the government. But every week is touch and go. The cliffhanger will reach high danger point in September when the next state budget comes before the lawmakers.
Israel’s high court last week curtailed the government’s tenure by one year, bringing the national election forward to November 2006 and adding to the pressures on all parties. Even if Sharon is able to shore up his crumbling coalition by co-opting Labor – or parts thereof – his administration can hardly expect to survive that long. Indeed, the Likud leader may find himself removed from office by an early election before he has a chance to remove a single settlement.
The world court, unopposed by the Israeli government and enjoying moral encouragement from Israel’s high court, sneaked in a couple of ominous riders to its decision:
1. “The wall seriously infringes on the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and is therefore is a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.
The term “breach” is based on a false assumption, namely that Israel has accepted an obligation to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and statehood. In fact, no elected Israeli administration or legislature has ever embraced any such obligation. Hence the term breach is a misnomer. Even the Middle East road map, which the Sharon government endorsed with 14 qualifications, grants Palestinian statehood only after its total renunciation of terrorism and democratic reforms under new leaders. The world court was encouraged to put the cart before the horse by Sharon’s tactic of wearing down opposition to his policies and objectives by reiterating propositions as though they were accomplished facts. The best example of this is his pledge to remove Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements by the end of 2005, when in fact it is no more than a pious hope. Even his winnowed down cabinet agreed to discuss the evacuations piecemeal not before March 2005, provided the circumstances were right.
2. The court declared that Jewish settlements were established in breach of international law and must be removed. This opinion was likewise fueled by the Gaza Strip precedent provided by Sharon.
The Palestinians, while carrying out a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on the one hand, are demanding international sanctions against Israel, on the other, although they are in no hurry to request a Security Council meeting for this purpose. Israeli officials claim the promise of an American veto against such sanctions, not only for Israel’s sake but to stem the fallout of the world court’s decisions when applied to America as “an occupying power” in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the global war on terror.
However, the Israeli government can expect some plain talk from two American visitors due in Jerusalem Monday, July 12: Steve Hadley, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice’s deputy – whose name is mentioned as a possible CIA director after George Tenet, and Elliot Abrams, head of the Middle East desk at the National Security Council. They will no doubt inform Israeli leaders of the price expected of them:
1. To halt construction of the security fence at any point except for the Green Line marking the pre-June 1967 borders, repeating Washington’s objections to the perimeter fence for protecting the Israeli West Bank town of Ariel, the section running through the Lod plain and Modiin south of Tel Aviv and the barrier encircling Jerusalem. (Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz have promised to comply with the Israeli high court ruling addressing the Jerusalem fence.)
2. To finally evacuate all the illegal West Bank outposts as Sharon has repeatedly promised President George W. Bush.
3. To ease hardships in the lives of Palestinians, a demand clearly incorporated in both court decisions.
Prime minister Sharon clearly does not feel in strong enough to bring into play the Bush Letter accepting the demographic reality of large settlement blocs on the West Bank, thus allowing his only major diplomatic achievement after four years in office to be buried under legal verbiage generated by two courts. Whether or not Israeli is subjected to sanctions, the two courts’ rulings are important in that they provide legitimacy, domestic and international, for Palestinian terror by failing to name it as the raison d’etre for “the wall.”

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