Israel's high court upholds building of barrier on land in West Bank

International court didn't consider security, it says

September 16, 2005|By Ken Ellingwood | Ken Ellingwood,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM - The Israeli Supreme Court has upheld the nation's right to build a barrier on land inside the West Bank, though it ordered the government to reconfigure a section because it left five Palestinian villages isolated.

In a 9-0 ruling yesterday, justices rejected the reasoning last year of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which deemed portions of the barrier in the West Bank illegal because they amounted to a de facto annexation by Israel and infringed on the rights of Palestinians left cut off from schools, work and family members.

The justices said the International Court of Justice did not adequately consider Israel's security needs in its judgment, a nonbinding advisory opinion delivered to the U.N. General Assembly in July 2004.

"The ICJ based its opinion on a factual basis regarding impingement of Palestinian residents' rights, without the factual basis regarding the security-military justification for this impingement," the Israeli court wrote.

The Supreme Court could have joined the World Court in finding the barrier illegal, which would have thrown into disarray the Israeli government project.

The planned 450-mile barrier, a combination of fences, concrete walls, patrol roads and trenches snaking in and around the West Bank, is about one-third completed.

Israel says the completed sections have been effective in helping to keep Palestinian suicide bombers from entering from the West Bank. But Palestinian officials say it is a way for Israel to seize land the Palestinians seek for an independent state.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said the Supreme Court ruling recognized the barrier's role as a security safeguard.

"The fence isn't going up in a vacuum," Regev said. "It's going up in the context of an all-too-real terrorist threat."

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the ruling would pave the way for further Israeli construction inside the West Bank. "This is really an unfortunate event for the peace process," Erekat said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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