GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXT REQUESTING INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE TO ISSUE ADVISORY OPINION ON WEST BANK SEPARATION WALL

8 December 2003
GA/10216

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXT REQUESTING INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE TO ISSUE ADVISORY OPINION ON WEST BANK SEPARATION WALL

08/12/2003
Press ReleaseGA/10216

General Assembly Plenary

Tenth Emergency Special Session

23rd Meeting (AM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXT REQUESTING INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

TO ISSUE ADVISORY OPINION ON WEST BANK SEPARATION WALL

Tenth Emergency Special Session Approves Measure

By Recorded Vote of 90 in Favour, 8 Against as 74 Abstain

The tenth emergency special session of the 191-member United Nations General Assembly this morning adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank.

Adopting the text by a recorded vote of 90 in favour, to 8 against (Australia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 74 abstentions, the Assembly also expressed grave concern at the commencement and ongoing construction of the wall in and around East Jerusalem -- a departure from the Armistice “Green Line”, disrupting the lives of thousands of protected civilians and the de facto annexation of large areas of territory.  (For details of voting, see Annex I.)

The Hague-based ICJ, established in 1946, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations with the dual role of settling legal disputes between Member States and issuing advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by international organs and agencies.

In a separate action, the Assembly adopted, by a recorded vote of 111 in favour, 7 against (Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States) with 55 abstentions, a decision requesting the world body to remain seized of the matter (see Annex II).

Arab delegations called for today’s vote following the release of a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which said that Israel was not in compliance with the General Assembly’s past demand that it halt construction of the barrier and take it down.

Following the voting, the Observer for Palestine described the barrier as a wall of shame, built on a foundation of killings and human rights violations, which must be removed immediately.  The entire world stood against the building of the “expansionist wall” and countries had been subjected to “immense pressures” not to vote for the resolution.

But Israel's representative said the near-even split in the voting could be seen as a victory for his country.  More than half the Assembly membership had not voted for the “biased resolution”, rejecting it in one way or another.  And among those voting for and against the measure, there was a clear distinction between tyrannical dictatorships and corrupt regimes on one side, and those with enlightened regimes on the other.  Israel regarded the vote as a moral victory for the enlightened, civilized world over the dark forces of tyranny and corruption.

Many delegations taking the floor before the vote strongly urged a halt to the construction of the barrier, which Israel says is being erected for security reasons.  Malaysia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that adopting the text would send a powerful message to Israel and that it would be most unfortunate and tragic if the Assembly were to fail in its responsibility to uphold justice and peace for the Palestinian people.

The representative of the Russian Federation, meanwhile, said that as a member of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process, alongside the United States, European Union and United Nations, his delegation continued to support and promote efforts to ensure the immediate and full implementation of the “Road Map”.  Russia also hoped that as efforts to actualize that plan got on track, direct Palestinian-Israeli dialogue would be restored.

Kuwait’s representative introduced the draft resolutions on behalf of the Group of the Arab States.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Senegal, Iran (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Italy (on behalf of the European Union), South Africa, Uganda, Cuba and the United States.

Turkey’s representative spoke in explanation of position before the vote, while the representatives of the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Japan, Canada, Switzerland and Singapore spoke after the vote.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the Observer for Palestine, as well as the representatives of Syria, Israel, Libya and Senegal.

The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene at 3 p.m. today to take up the reports of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), as well as matters relating to information technology for development.

Background

Resuming its tenth emergency special session on illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory today, the General Assembly is expected to consider the issue of Israel’s construction of a separation wall in the West Bank.

The Assembly’s discussions will be guided by Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report (document A/ES-10/248), in which he says that Israel is not in compliance with the 191-member body’s demand this past October to halt and take down a barrier on occupied Palestinian land.  The report adds that in present circumstances the construction cannot be seen “as anything but a deeply counterproductive act”, particularly in the midst of the “Road Map” peace process, which aims at a two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace by 2005.

Citing reports from United Nations staff on the ground in the region, the Secretary-General notes in his conclusion, among other things, ongoing construction along the north-east boundary of the West Bank and Jerusalem; levelling of land; issuance of land requisition orders; release of the first official map showing the planned route and a declaration of intent to complete the barrier by 2005.

While recognizing Israel’s “right and duty to protect its people against terrorist attacks”, and noting that it began the barrier after a sharp rise in Palestinian terror attacks in 2002, he adds:  “That duty should not be carried out in a way that is in contradiction of international law, that could damage the longer-term prospects for peace by making the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian State more difficult, or that increases suffering among the Palestinian people.”

The Secretary-General also notes Israel’s repeated statements that the barrier is a temporary security measure and does not represent a “political or other border”, but says that its scope and the amount of occupied land being requisitioned, or that will end up within the barrier, are of serious concern and have implications for the future.

The tenth emergency special session is also set to consider two draft resolutions, including one text (document A/ES-10/L.16), which would have the Assembly express its grave concern at the commencement and ongoing construction of the wall in and around East Jerusalem, which is a departure from the Armistice “Green Line”, disrupting the lives of thousands of protected civilians and the de facto annexation of large areas of territory.

Further, that text would have the Assembly express grave concern at the even more devastating impact of the projected parts of the wall on the Palestinian civilian population and on prospects for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and establishing peace in the region.  It would, therefore, have the Assembly ask the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on whether Israel should cease construction of the barrier and dismantle the existing parts.

The second draft (document A/ES-10/L.17) would have the Assembly adjourn its emergency special session temporarily and authorize the Assembly President to reconvene it at the request of Member States.

This is the third time during its fifty-eighth session, which opened on 19 September, that the world body’s Arab Member States have called for the resumption of the long-running emergency session.  In late October, following the Security Council’s failure to act, the Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a measure demanding that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall being built in the West Bank.  The vote was 144 in favour, to 4 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United States).

The tenth emergency special session dates back to 1997, when Israel began construction of a new settlement south of East Jerusalem.  The Security Council met twice on that issue, but failed to adopt resolutions.  Using the “Uniting for Peace” formula, a special emergency session of the Assembly was convened in April and again in July and November of 1997.  It also resumed in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Statements

MANSOUR AYYAD AL-OTAIBI (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Arab States and introducing the draft resolutions before the Assembly, said that the Secretary-General’s report had reaffirmed that Israel did not respect -– and had deliberately disregarded -– international resolutions, as well as the serious implications of its actions.  Israel had not complied with the resolution demanding a halt in the construction of the separation wall, but had continued to confiscate Palestinian land for it.

All reports by international observers on that issue had concluded that the construction of the wall would severely harm the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians, he noted.  Israel’s actions had demonstrated no genuine desire to reach a durable and comprehensive peace on the Palestinian issue.  Israel must realize that its policies, aimed at perpetuating the occupation, would not enable it to attain its goals.  The only way forward to a settlement was based upon respecting the relevant international resolutions and fulfilling the obligations contained in the Road Map.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that the Secretary-General’s report had concluded that Israel was not in compliance with the General Assembly’s demand that it stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The request for the Secretary-General to consider the issue had come in a resolution adopted at the conclusion of the Assembly’s tenth resumed emergency special session in October.  That text had also stated that once the Secretary-General’s report had been received, the Assembly might consider “further action, if necessary”.

At present, he said, such further action would be to request an advisory opinion from the ICJ about the legal consequences arising from Israel’s construction of the wall and its disregard of international law, as well as relevant resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly.  In the absence of any other specific measures to compel Israel to stop building the wall and to dismantle the existing portions, “at minimum, we must seek to affirm the legal aspects in this regard”.

He said the hope was that the move, as well as increased focus on Israel’s actions by the wider United Nations system, would put additional pressure on Israel, which might lead to its compliance with, and adherence to, the provisions of international law and the will of the international community.  The draft resolution before the Assembly today made such an assessment and request, and hopefully, it would be adopted by an overwhelming majority of Member States.  All law-abiding nations should support the text, as there was no credibility to the opposing argument, particularly in light of Israel’s intransigence, in flagrant challenge of Member States, to continue to forge ahead in its construction of the wall.

With regard to the expansionist conquest wall, its nature and route, the accompanying confiscation of land, the creation of closed areas and, finally, its humanitarian and socio-economic impact, he said what was happening was the enslavement of the whole Palestinian people, on their way to being confined to cantons by the Israeli fascist colonial occupier.  The construction of the barrier and its impacts was the shame of the twenty-first century, which screamed for serious action to erase it.  The Secretary-General’s report had made clear that the wall could not be a means of achieving security, a false excuse that had been used time and again to acquire Palestinian lands by force and to commit serious war crimes.

Continued construction of the wall also meant the end of the two-State solution to the conflict, as well as the Quartet-backed peace plan, he said.  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Government had sought to sabotage all attempts to stop the violence and end the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East.  For the Palestinian side, any negotiations were meaningless without first stopping the wall, which must be stopped at any cost.  In the event of failure to do so, Israel should bear the consequences and the international community should accelerate the imposition of a final settlement on both parties.

DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) stressed that his present comments were without prejudice to his country’s clear position of principle that the convening of the emergency special session violated fundamental conditions of the Uniting for Peace procedure and of the United Nations Charter.  Among its other failings, the current emergency special session was taking place despite the fact that the issue of requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ had not even been raised before the Security Council.  The resolutions adopted by the so-called tenth emergency special session were ultra vires and constituted an abuse of the powers of the General Assembly under the Charter.

Israel did not deny that, in exercising its inherent right to self-defence against terrorism, it must act within the limits of international law, he said.  However, it rejected attempts to apply that law incorrectly and selectively, to misrepresent the nature and purpose of the security fence and to ignore the context in which the country had taken action.  The fence was an “Arafat Fence”; his terrorism had initiated it and made its construction inevitable.  If there were no Arafat, there would be no need for a fence.

The security fence, he continued, was a temporary, proven, necessary and non-violent measure adopted to defend the Israeli people from a continuing and vicious campaign of terrorism.  As long as the Palestinian leadership flouted its obligations to fight terrorism, there was no alternative to the fence.  Yet, the fence was not a border and had no political significance; it did not change the legal status of the territory in any way.  Israel remained committed to negotiations on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and remained ready to dismantle or alter the fence in the event of a political settlement.

If built along the Green Line, the fence would not adequately prevent terrorist attacks against civilians, he added.  Its route had not been determined by politics, but by a difficult and painful balance between security, humanitarian and topographical conditions.  And while some had argued that it was counterproductive to the peace process, the fence would not only improve the humanitarian conditions of the majority of Palestinians by allowing for a significant reduction in Israeli forces in the West Bank, but, in reducing the capacity of Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate and carry out acts of terror, it would also help to restore calm and encourage an environment in which negotiations and the implementation of the Road Map could take place.

It was unsurprising, he said, that the report of the Secretary-General lacked fairness, balance and perspective, given that it had been prompted by a clearly one-sided resolution.  The report had made virtually no mention of the terrorist campaign being waged against Israel, which the fence was specifically designed to counter.  The question of whether Israeli defensive measures were permissible depended on their proportionality to the threat faced, and while determining that proportionality was a complex process, the tenor of the report seemed to be that any Israeli measure -– no matter how many innocent lives it might save or how much it might release the stranglehold of terrorists on Palestinian society -– was unacceptable if it had any impact on Palestinian lives.

That approach was troubling, he concluded.  Not only did it send the message that the Palestinians would not be called upon to stop the terror, but that Israel would not be allowed to stop it either.  It was also instructive to consider the Assembly’s response to other actions taken by States fighting terrorism.  In past decades, certain Arab States had killed thousands in the name of fighting terrorism, yet the Assembly had remained silent.  Only in the case of Israel had that silence been broken.

Once again, the resolution presented for adoption failed to reflect the reality on the ground, he said, or to help the Israeli and Palestinian peoples move closer to peaceful settlement.  The request for an advisory opinion constituted a harmful, divisive, illegal and diversionary tactic, which Israel would vote against.  Those delegations that cared about peace, preserving the ICJ and restoring the credibility and reputation of the United Nations should do the same.

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country, which had been one of those that had called for the resumption of the emergency special session, continued to stand by its position that the Israeli expansionist wall was illegal, must be dismantled and further construction halted.  Indeed, the wall, being constructed deep inside the occupied territory, departed from the 1949 Armistice Line and was a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions because, among other things, it involved the illegal, de facto annexation of massive areas of Palestinian land and resources.

He said the wall also presented a major obstacle to the implementation of the Road Map peace plan because it undermined the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State.  It could also trigger the end of the overall Middle East peace process, since it could potentially provoke more violence among the severely oppressed Palestinians in their desperate effort to survive under the brutal oppression of the Israeli Government.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, he said it made clear that Israel was not in compliance with the Assembly’s demand to end construction of the wall and that the wall itself would have a severe socio-economic and humanitarian impact on the Palestinian people.  Regarding the draft resolution before the Assembly today, the Non-Aligned Movement believed that an advisory opinion from the ICJ would provide an independent and impartial pronouncement on the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of the wall.  Adopting the text would send a powerful message to Israel and it would be most unfortunate and tragic if the Assembly were to fail in its responsibility to uphold justice and peace for the Palestinian people.

PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the tenth emergency special session had been reconvened because the Government of Israel had ignored the last resolution adopted by the Assembly.  That situation was reflected in the report of the Secretary-General on the separation wall, which concluded that Israel was not in compliance with the call to halt its construction.  Moreover, Israel’s position -– that the construction of the wall was not prejudicial to the final settlement -– moved one to ask why that country had not built the wall parallel to the Green Line, on its own territory.  The building of the wall had already adversely affected Palestinian economic development, the humanitarian situation and the already unbearable living conditions of the Palestinians.

However, chances to revitalize the political process for peace continued to exist, he said.  For example, talks were continuing between certain elements of the two sides –- such as the recently published Geneva Accords developed by civil society.  Israel must be brought to see that in building walls, it would not enjoy greater security.  That situation would only come about through restoring Palestinian lands and negotiating with the Palestinians.  The Road Map provided the way forward and, with that in mind, the Committee urged the General Assembly to support the sponsors of the draft resolution requesting an advisory opinion of the ICJ.

JAVAD ZARIF (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that Israel’s explicit contempt for the will of the international community by continuing to build the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territory had led the Secretary-General to conclude in his report that Israel was not in compliance with the Assembly’s demand to halt construction of the barrier.  In light of that conclusion, the wall must be seen in the context of Israel’s continued attempts to deprive the Palestinians of their inherent rights –- this time in the guise of security –- in contravention of international law.

Taking into consideration Israel’s settlement-building activities, the expansionist wall marked the beginning of a new phase in the plight of the Palestinian people, he said.  The wall would cause direct harm to thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of villages and towns as it meant the demolition of more Palestinian homes and businesses, as well as further degradation of the environment.  Thus, the magnitude of the injustice of the wall and its attendant impacts on all levels of Palestinian society was indeed alarming.

If unchecked, it would render the Palestinian people even more desperate and with even less hope for a better future, he said.  With the Security Council’s failure to act on the matter, along with Israel’s flouting of the Assembly’s recent relevant decision, the ICJ was competent and best placed to provide an advisory decision on the occupying Power’s legal obligations regarding the wall’s construction.

MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed particular concern about the route marked out for the barrier in the Occupied West Bank.  The envisaged departure of the barrier from the Green Line could prejudge future negotiations and make a two-State solution physically impossible to implement.  The construction had already cut off thousands of Palestinians west of the fence from essential services in the West Bank and Palestinians east of the fence would lose access to land and water resources.  The European Union was alarmed by the designation of land between the barrier and the Green Line as a closed military zone, a de facto change in the legal status of Palestinians living in that area that would cause them further humanitarian and economic hardship.

He said the European Union had presented resolution ES/10-13 approved by the General Assembly on 21 October, demanding that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the barrier inside the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, which was a departure from the Armistice Line of 1949 and contradicted international law.  However, the proposed request for an advisory opinion from the ICJ would not help the efforts of the two parties to re-launch a political dialogue and was, therefore, not appropriate.

The European Union remained committed to the objective of two States, living side by side in peace and security, as laid out in the Road Map, he said.  It strongly condemned the suicide attacks and other acts of violence and called on all sides to refrain from any action that could further escalate tensions.  Terrorist attacks against Israel had no justification whatsoever, he said, stressing that the Palestinian leadership had to demonstrate its determination in the fight against extremist violence.  He reiterated the European Union’s determination to contribute, with its partners in the Quartet, to all efforts to re-launch the peace process through an early implementation of the Road Map and stressed the importance of setting up an effective third-party monitoring mechanism.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said that resolution ES-10/13, adopted by the General Assembly in October, had sent a clear message to Israel that its construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory was illegal.  The question before the Assembly was whether the co-sponsors and other supporters of the resolution could summon the political will necessary to take further action within the United Nations system to address Israel’s non-compliance with that resolution.

Referring to the Secretary-General’s report, he said it informed delegations in clear and unambiguous terms that construction of the wall was ongoing and that Israel was not in compliance with the demands of the United Nations.  The report made clear that construction of the wall would impair future negotiations and raised serious concerns about the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people to work, health, education and an adequate standard of living.  Palestinians trapped between the Green Line and the separation wall would now have to renew short-term permits to continue living on their own land.

He said Palestinians and Israelis alike would benefit from an advisory opinion from the ICJ.  There was an alternative path to the self-perpetuating and self-defeating policies of confrontation and violence.  The parties could choose, instead, to re-embark on direct negotiations and to call for increased international assistance from the United Nations to monitor the implementation of any agreements they reached.  The recent Geneva initiative by Palestinians and Israelis was a remarkable achievement of private citizens and demonstrated that each side could find a partner for peace and that the principle of “land for peace” continued to offer the only viable basis for a negotiated settlement of the dispute.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the entire course of events had shown that it was no longer plausible for the international community to continue with “business as usual” where the Palestinian-Israeli dispute was concerned.  The status quo was not in the interest of either party -- not in the interest of the desire of the Palestinian people to achieve statehood and sovereignty over their homeland, nor that of the Israeli side to ensure their national security.

Therefore, he said, the Russian Federation, as a member of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process alongside the United States, European Union and United Nations, continued to support and promote all the world body’s decisions that called for the immediate implementation of the Road Map.  The Russian Federation also hoped that as efforts to actualize that plan got on track, direct Palestinian-Israeli dialogue would be restored.  Along with the long-hoped-for meetings between the Sharon Government and the Palestinian leadership, the way forward under the Road Map called for action by both parties.

He said the Palestinian side must take concrete efforts to halt extremist activities, and the Israeli leadership, in turn, must implement its obligations under the plan, namely, refraining from the use of excess force and extrajudicial killings and take steps to ease the socio-economic plight of the Palestinian people.  The Russian Federation supported Israel’s right to protect itself, but those actions should not be exercised by cutting off other people’s lands or by contravening international law.  The Quartet’s membership had affirmed that it was not expedient to stand idly by, nor to presuppose that the worst-case scenario was inevitable.  The world community must use all the powers of diplomacy.  The Russian Federation and the Quartet would continue active work to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

CHARLES W. G. WAGABA (Uganda) said his country remained a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause.  It also supported the two-nation policy, whereby the States of Israel and Palestine would exist side by side in peace, within internationally recognized and secure borders.  It was within that context that the conflict in the Middle East should be addressed.  As a way forward, the ongoing Quartet-led Road Map –- endorsed by the Security Council on 19 November –- should be supported.  The international community -– and especially the United Nations -– should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Passing resolutions to condemn one side only hardened attitudes.  The United Nations should, instead, endeavour to bring the two sides together.

United Nations resolutions should not be perceived as solutions, but as viable means to find a solution, he continued.  If passing resolutions did not produce the desired results, another mechanism should be found -– in this case, the solution was to be found in a settlement negotiated by both parties.  For that reason, moreover, referring the issue to the ICJ would not serve the cause of peace.  Going to the Court would politicize that body and would constitute “forum shopping”, given that a mechanism –- the Road Map -- already existed to deal with the situation.

ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said the construction of the separation wall on occupied Palestinian territory was part of the lengthy history of attacks and violations of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.  The Assembly itself had already considered the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by the use of force, and the international community had always refused to recognize unlawful Israeli settlements, as well as the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan.

He said Israel had tried to present the wall as a security measure, yet it was being built on Palestinian territory and would enclose 16.6 per cent of total Palestinian land on the West Bank, thus constituting a de facto annexation.  The building of the wall, settlements and roads reflected a clear territorial expansion to the detriment of the Palestinian people and raised real questions regarding Israel’s sincerity in desiring a peaceful settlement of the issue.  Moreover, the “bantustanization” of Palestinian territory would prevent the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian State, among its other negative effects.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said today’s emergency special session did not contribute to the shared goal of implementing the Road Map, which was, indeed, the surest way to peace.  The Road Map outlined the actions to be taken by both parties to achieve President George W. Bush’s two-State vision.  The wider international community also envisioned such a path to peace for both sides.  Referral of the issue to the ICJ risked politicization of the Court and did not advance peace efforts.

He said the United States had long opposed action by either party that prejudged final settlement status.  President Bush had also expressed concerns about the effects of the security barrier and other Israeli actions on the Palestinian people.  But today’s meeting and the draft under consideration undermined rather than encouraged peace and diplomacy.  Indeed, it was the wrong way and the wrong time to proceed in the matter.  The text was unbalanced and did not even mention the word “terrorism”.  The United States would vote against the draft and urge Members not to support it.

Action on Drafts

Before the Assembly took action on the two draft resolutions, the representative of Turkey spoke in explanation of position, saying he would vote in favour of the draft resolution because it would carry the issue into the legal forum.  Although his country agreed with much of the statement made by the representative of Italy, on behalf of the European Union, it also held that the political process and the process of obtaining a legal opinion were not mutually exclusive.

The construction of the wall could affect negatively the interests of Palestinians and Israelis alike, he said, and so play into the hands of terrorists aiming to polarize society and prevent any just and lasting peace.  Moreover, it was wrong to build the wall on other people’s land -– that could push the Palestinian population into further desperation and give extremism the upper hand.

With regard to the threat of terrorism faced by Israel, he acknowledged that a series of acts had pushed Israel to construct the wall.  However, while the international community should work to convince Israel that it had overreacted, it must also work to convince the Palestinian leadership to redress the situation and dismantle the infrastructure of terror.  Both sides must work to break out of the vicious cycle, casting aside their old maps.  They should embrace wholeheartedly the Road Map.

The Assembly then adopted the text requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ by a recorded vote of 90 in favour, 8 against (Australia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 74 abstentions.

The Assembly also adopted the decision requesting the world body to remain seized of the issue by a recorded vote of 111 in favour, 7 against (Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 55 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said he remained concerned by the route marked out for the barrier and regretted that Israel had not complied with the General Assembly’s demand to halt and reverse the construction of the barrier.  Nevertheless, he had abstained on the vote requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ because it was inappropriate to take such action without the consent of both parties.  Moreover, the advisory opinion was unlikely to change the actual situation on ground.  The case was not one in which the Assembly needed the Court’s legal advice in order to carry out its functions.  The question could only be settled through direct negotiations between the two parties.  Pursuing an advisory opinion would not help to relaunch the dialogue nor to implement the Road Map, which should be the priority.

The representative of Cyprus said his country believed in making use of all the options and means provided for by the United Nations Charter, including the capacity to request judicial decisions and advisory opinions.  However, as a country acceding to the European Union, Cyprus had abstained on the vote on the advisory opinion in order to preserve the Union’s unity and the strength of its role as member of the Quartet.  Through its own painful experience, Cyprus knew about arbitrary dividing lines and supported the Secretary-General’s assessment that the construction of the wall would cause additional hardship to the Palestinian people.

The representative of Japan said he had abstained in voting on the same resolution.  However, his country retained its opposition to the construction of the wall within the Green Line, as it negatively affected the situation of the Palestinian people and prejudged the final settlement.  Israel was urged to halt its construction.

Also following the vote, GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said his delegation had abstained in the vote.  While Canada felt that, while an advisory opinion from the ICJ might be instructive, the request at “this time, in such a highly-charged environment, was not a useful step”.  In addition, this past October, the Assembly had already made its decision on Israel’s construction of the barrier.  The conflict needed to be solved through negotiation, he said, stressing that a unilateral decision by another body would not lead to peace.

PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said his delegation was firmly opposed to the construction of the wall.  It was contrary to the Road Map and hampered efforts to achieve the two-State solution long envisioned by the international community.  With respect to the text under consideration today, however, Switzerland had abstained in the vote.  Despite its commitment to international law, Switzerland believed that it was inappropriate to bring a subject with highly political implications before the ICJ.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said his delegation continued to support the Palestinian position on all relevant resolutions and decision taken up during this session.  But, nevertheless, Singapore had reservations about seeking an advisory opinion from the ICJ as it would have wider implications that were a cause of concern.  As a small State, Singapore relied on the integrity of international law, of which the ICJ was one of the most important pillars.

Singapore did not consider it appropriate to involve the ICJ in the dispute, he continued.  The issue of the wall should be settled through negotiations, particularly as an ICJ opinion would have no binding effect on the Assembly or the parties.  Further, the Assembly in October had already made the determination that the wall was in violation of the 1949 Armistice Line.  Posing the question might imply that the Assembly was not quite sure of its previous decision.  Singapore had abstained in the vote today.

Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that Israel’s statement had included many false claims regarding his country and represented a desperate attempt to justify Israeli policy.  However, Syria would not stoop to a similar level or waste the General Assembly’s time.  Israel’s statement constituted an attempt to distract international public opinion from the main problem in the Middle East, which was the continued occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories, as well as continued illegal practices by Israel.

The Israeli delegate’s attack against the General Assembly –- and against the United Nations in general -– also reflected the Israeli Government’s position against the Organization and its resolutions, he added.  The Israeli delegate should listen to the voice of wisdom voiced by many members of the international community during the vote, which had made it abundantly clear that the settlement of the situation should be based upon international legitimacy and the end of the occupation.  The international community had declared that the only objective in the region was to establish a just and lasting peace.  Would the delegate of Israel heed those calls?

In reply, the representative of Israel said that two symbolic events had occurred over the last few minutes.  The Assembly, with a sigh of relief, had heard that Libya had decided to co-sponsor the resolution requesting an advisory opinion.  And second, it had seen the only right of reply come from one of the world’s worst harbourers and perpetrators of terrorism.  To listen to words of wisdom from that State was oxymoronic.

Reviewing the vote, he said, one could see that more than half the membership of the United Nations had not voted for the biased resolution –- more than half had in one way or another rejected it.  And among those voting for and against, there was a clear distinction between tyrannical dictatorships and corrupt regimes on one side, and those with enlightened regimes on the other.  Israel regarded the vote as a moral victory for the enlightened, civilized world over the dark forces of tyranny and corruption.

The representative of Syria expressed once more his concern that the time of the Assembly was being wasted in listening to Israel defend the occupation of Palestinian territories and the construction of the expansionist, racist wall.  The Government of Israel had killed more than 3,000 Palestinians in the past two years, including more than 500 children.  That was terror –- nothing but terror, expansionism and aggression.

Israel wished to describe its occupation with words that all knew were not true, he added.  The Israeli delegate sought only to defend his country –- which had been repeatedly condemned at the United Nations.  Conversely, he challenged the delegate from Israel to name just one resolution against Syria.  His country advocated peace, while Israel did its utmost to bury the dream of peace in the Middle East.

The representative of Israel said the Assembly had listened once again to the voice of one of the most tyrannical, corrupt, backward and terrorizing regimes in the world.  Syria was not only on the wrong side of today’s vote, but on the wrong side of the fight against terrorism.  Only a few days ago, Damascus had given explicit orders to two suicide bombers to blow themselves up in a school, which could have had devastating consequences.

Syria had long ago lost -– and never regained –- the right to speak on behalf of good, he concluded.  Syria stood for everything dark and evil in the world.  The fact was, Syria found itself on one side of the vote, while Israel found itself on the side of the world’s democracies on the other.

Following the vote, the Observer for Palestine extended his sincere thanks and appreciation to all the countries that had supported and adopted the resolution, which he believed had historic importance.  He added that he would not take the time to address the “disgusting and inappropriate statements, unbecoming of the Assembly”, that had been made by the representative of Israel.  The entire world stood against the building of the expansionist wall, but apparently, the Israeli delegation was not concerned with that.  If the Israeli delegate had called it the “Arafat wall”, what about “Sharon wall”? That barrier was being built on a foundation of, among other things, repeated killings, violations of human rights and the flouting of international law.  He reiterated that it was “a wall of shame” and must be immediately removed.

Further, he did not quite understand the statement of that delegation which had suggested that the issue of the wall could only be solved through negotiation.  That was regrettable.  The problem was not one of borders; rather, it was a problem of the annexation and acquisition of territories by force.  Such actions were prohibited by international law, he added.  He again thanked all those that had supported the text, noting that they had done so under extreme pressure from other delegations.

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that the Observer’s assertion that the Palestinian Authority did not understand statements of countries that supported the resolution of the dispute through negotiation had indeed been true –- indeed, the Palestinian leadership apparently did not understand the need for negotiations.  For its part, Israel felt the issue could only be solved through diplomacy, not through terrorism.  The building of the “Arafat Wall” had been the direct result of the corrupt Palestinian leader taking his own people down a path of destruction, poverty and bloodshed with no observable benefit than what it had all meant to his own bank account.

Also in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Libya said his delegation would not dignify the statements made by Israel, particularly as everyone knew that Israel continued to commit the worst human rights violations on the international scene today.  Libya believed that Israel should direct its advice to someone else.

The Palestinian Observer said he would not respond to Israel’s statement, as he believed that the Assembly could draw its own conclusions.  But to clear up his own earlier statement about negotiations, he said he had regretted the fact that one delegation had said that the issue of the wall could not be solved but through negotiations.  The Palestinian side was committed to negotiations, as well as to the full implementation of the Road Map.  But continued construction of the wall could only destroy the potential for any negotiated settlement and could not be the subject of negotiation.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Senegal said that the representative of Israel, in commenting on the vote, had characterized those voting in favour and those voting against, and those comments were unfortunate, especially regarding the classification of those voting in favour as tyrannies and those voting against as democratic.  His own country was democratic and respected human rights, and he was sure that many other countries that had voted in favour of the resolution were, likewise, democracies and respecters of human rights.

ANNEX I

Vote on Israeli Actions in Occupied Territories

The draft resolution on illegal Israeli actions in the occupied territories (document A/ES-10/L.16) was approved by a recorded vote of 90 in favour to 8 against, with 74 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Australia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Iraq, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Tuvalu.

ANNEX II

Vote on Israeli Actions in Occupied Territories

The draft decision on illegal Israeli actions in the occupied territories (document A/ES-10/L.17) was approved by a recorded vote of 111 in favour to 7 against, with 55 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vanuatu.

Absent:  Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iraq, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu.

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For information media. Not an official record.