Israelis, Palestinians Plot Next Moves on Barrier Issue ; the International Court of Justice Ruled Friday That the Wall Violates International Law

Article excerpt

Where Palestinians see victory achieved, Israelis see violence overlooked.

The decision by the UN's top legal body to declare illegal the wall Israel is building throughout the West Bank is still reverberating. Palestinians are feeling vindicated and are growing optimistic about having it altered, if not taken down. Israelis are more convinced that the world is indifferent to their security concerns, and Sunday were reminded of why the government decided to erect a wall: A Palestinian bomb killed a young woman and injured more than 40 people at a bus stop in Tel Aviv.

Friday, the International Court of Justice in The Hague declared that the 370-mile wall, about a quarter of which has been built, violates international law and should be dismantled. The court said Israel should also compensate Palestinians for damages incurred during the wall's construction. The ICJ's nonbinding ruling - harsher than Israeli officials expected - pushes the Israeli- Palestinian conflict off the back burner and to the fore.

Palestinian leaders say they will bring the ICJ's ruling to the UN General Assembly. The issue could then be sent to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions. But there are strong indications the US would use its veto to stop any attempt at sanctions, and Palestinian officials say they are taking into account US election-year politics before trying to use the ruling in a way that would appear as if the world were "ganging up" on Israel.

"The leadership decided that first we should go to legal experts to study carefully," says Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian Authority minister of labor. "One view discussed ... is that we should be a little bit careful. If there is a high chance of a veto ... maybe we need to wait before taking it to the Security Council."

Still, the wall battle comes as many Americans have grown increasingly concerned about the world's image of US foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. Strained ties with European allies could become further complicated, Mr. Khatib notes, if the US tries to disregard the ruling entirely. "It would be very difficult for any American government to veto a resolution that is based on the legal view of the UN's high court of justice," he says. …


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