GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETS IN EMERGENCY SESSION TO DEBATE WORLD COURT’S DECISION ON ISRAELI SECURITY BARRIER

16 July 2004
GA/10246

GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETS IN EMERGENCY SESSION TO DEBATE WORLD COURT’S DECISION ON ISRAELI SECURITY BARRIER

16/07/2004
Press ReleaseGA/10246

General Assembly Plenary                                   

Tenth Emergency Special Session                            

24th Meeting (AM & PM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETS IN EMERGENCY SESSION TO DEBATE

WORLD COURT’S DECISION ON ISRAELI SECURITY BARRIER

Draft Resolution Demands Israel’s Compliance to Be Considered Monday, 19 July

The General Assembly met in an emergency session today to debate last week’s advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that the controversial Israeli-built security barrier in the West Bank was illegal and should be torn down.

Arab and Non-Aligned delegations, who had called for the resumption of the Assembly’s long-running emergency special session, hailed the World Court’s ruling as a political, moral and legal victory, even though the opinion is non-binding.  They promised to push for a vote on a draft resolution that would demand that Israel follow the Court’s edict and stop construction, dismantle the barrier, and provide reparations to Palestinians whose lives have been harmed by the wall.

The 15-judge Court issued its opinion one week ago today, saying that the 450-mile-long system of walls and fences in the occupied PalestinianTerritory “gravely” infringed on the rights of Palestinians, could not be justified by military needs or national security, and violated international law.  Though the decision had no legal effect, 14 of the 15 judges called on the Assembly and the Security Council to “consider what further action is required to end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall.”

The Court is the United Nations highest judicial body, and the Assembly originally requested the advisory opinion last December.  Speaking at the outset of today’s debate, the Permanent Observer for Palestine called the ruling “a watershed event ... based on international law and the ideals of peace and reconciliation”.  He said it constituted a strong, clear and comprehensive determination of the applicable rules of international law, as well as the legal obligations that had arisen from breaches of that law committed by Israel as a result of its construction of the separation wall.

He said a draft resolution before the Assembly had a twofold purpose:  acceptance of the advisory opinion and a call for compliance with international legal obligations from Israel and from other Member States.  In the event of non-compliance, States must be ready to undertake actions consistent with their legal obligations, including actions against all settlement activities, as well as sanctions against companies or entities involved in the wall’s construction.

Israel’s representative said his country, together with a large number of States, had not supported the request for the Court’s advisory opinion because the initiative was counterproductive and harmful.  The Assembly had acted wrongly, politicizing the Court and turning a judicial organ into an actor on the political stage.  Now, all those States that had expressed concern about the misuse of the Court must be wary of allowing the process to dictate the international agenda.

Israel recognized that it had responsibilities, he continued, but it was not alone.  The Palestinian side must abandon terror as a strategic choice; that straightforward measure would lead to removal of the fence.  In the months since the advisory opinion had been requested, it had become clear that the fence worked.  There was now a genuine chance to restart the “Road Map” as a result of the disengagement plan, he said, crediting the fence’s security benefits for creating the new opportunity.

The Russian Federation’s representative said that the ongoing situation in the Middle East required everyone in the international community to urgently search for ways to help the parties overcome the profound mistrust that was hampering them from finding a way out of the long-running dispute.  While no one had a ready-made formula for ending the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, the main thing was that there had been general agreement that the objectives of the Road Map peace plan held a particular significance.

With that in mind then, the upcoming September ministerial-level meeting of the diplomatic Quartet would provide an excellent opportunity to move the peace process forward.  His Government paid tribute to the work currently under way by Egypt and Jordan to promote the peace process.  He respected the opinion of the Court on the implications of the wall.  Yet, it was important that the opinion not be used as an excuse to whip up passions.

The representative of Australia said that his country regretted that the Court had ruled on the barrier.  Australia had voted against the Assembly resolution that had originally called on the Court to make an advisory opinion.  He remained of the view that the resolution unfairly isolated a single issue in a complex conflict, that it served no purpose given the nature and content of resolutions already passed by the Assembly, that it would politicize the Court and would distract the parties -– which was happening -– from the urgent need to resume negotiations in the tragic and long-running Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the representative of Turkey said the bloc consistently rejected terrorism and did not deny the right of all States to fight that scourge.  Yet, that should in no way be construed as condoning the violation of others’ legitimate rights.  The wall, in its present form, was not a healthy solution, as it undermined the basic vision of Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side in safety and security in their respective States.  It also strengthened the perception of an unjust Israeli occupation and restricted the basic human rights of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.  Therefore, the focus must fall upon the Road Map.

Also addressing the Assembly during the resumed tenth emergency special session were the representatives of Jordan (on behalf of the Arab League), Senegal (in his capacity as Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People), Malaysia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Pakistan, India, Qatar, South Africa, Egypt, the United States, Djibouti, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Yemen, Indonesia, Japan, Iran, Zimbabwe, Viet Nam, New Zealand, China, Cuba, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Nigeria, and Nepal.

At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly also paid tribute to the late President of Austria, Thomas Klestil, who passed away on 6 July.

Speaking on behalf of the regional groups were the representatives of Burkina Faso (on behalf of African States), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of Asian States), Ukraine (on behalf of Eastern European States), Haiti (on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Luxembourg (on behalf of Western Europe and other States), respectively, as well as the representative of the United States (as the host country).  Thanking the Assembly members for their tribute was the representative of Austria.

The Assembly also heard a statement by the representative of Nicaragua on the severe flooding in the autonomous regions of North and South Atlantic and the department of Matagalpa.

Lastly, the Assembly was informed that 15 Member States were in arrears under the terms of Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations, namely Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Republic of Moldova, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan.  The Assembly was also informed that Mauritania had made a payment necessary to reduce the amount owed to allow them to vote.

The General Assembly will next reconvene its tenth emergency special session at 3 p.m. on Monday, 19 July, to take action on the draft resolution endorsing the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

Background

The General Assembly today resumed its tenth emergency session on illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory to debate the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which concerns the legal consequences of the Israeli-built security barrier under construction in the West Bank.

Last December, the resumed emergency session unanimously adopted a resolution requesting the Court’s opinion which concerns the legality of the wall.  By that text, the Assembly decided to “adjourn the tenth emergency special session temporarily and to authorize the current President of the General Assembly to resume its meeting upon request from Member States”.

The Court –- the United Nations highest judicial body -- handed down its non-binding ruling last Friday, 9 July, declaring that the wall was illegal, that Israel must dismantle its standing portions and that Israel must provide reparations for damages caused by the construction.  It also suggested that the General Assembly and the Security Council might consider further action.

The Secretary-General transmitted the Court’s ruling to the Assembly last week, and today’s meeting was subsequently requested by the States members of the League of Arab States (document A/ES-10/274), and the Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) (document A/ES-10/275).

Tribute to Austrian President Thomas Klestil

Speaking in tribute to the memory of President Thomas Klestil of Austria, who passed away on 6 July, representatives of the regional groups –- Burkina Faso (on behalf of African States), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of Asian States), Ukraine (on behalf of Eastern European States), Haiti (on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Luxembourg (on behalf of Western Europe and other States), respectively –- and the representative of the United States (as the host country) expressed their condolences to the people and Government of Austria, and to the family of the late President.

GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria) expressed the gratitude of the Austrian people and Government for the tributes paid to the memory of the President.  President Klestil had been a true Austrian patriot, he stressed, a convinced European and a devoted global citizen.  His commitment to dialogue among nations, cultures and civilizations had gained him respect, friendship and admiration in all regions of the world.  A believer in the virtues of multilateral diplomacy, President Klestil, who had also served as the Austrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1978 to 1982, had considered the Organization an indispensable forum for the advancement of the common goals of mankind.  And throughout his 12 years as head of State, the United Nations had remained a top priority.

Statement on Flooding in Nicaragua

EDUARDO JOSE SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua) said that severe flooding had seriously impacted the autonomous regions of North and South Atlantic and the department of Matagalpa since 26 June 2004, leading to loss of life and damage to infrastructure and production in those regions.  Having declared a state of natural disaster in those areas on 4 July 2004, the Government of Nicaragua was now implementing immediate and medium-term response plans.  Among the priorities of the immediate plan were:  the provision of food; drinking water and medicines; psychological counselling; support to the national police; building temporary housing; and strengthening the areas’ early warning system.  The priorities of the medium-term plan included updating the management plan for the regions, a crop recovery plan, reforesting, environmental education and further strengthening the monitoring system.

Statements on Advisory Opinion

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion, delivered on 9 July 2004, constituted a strong, clear and comprehensive determination of the applicable rules of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as the legal obligations, which had arisen from breaches of international law committed by Israel as a result of its construction of the separation wall.  The opinion represented a pivotal development, bringing international law back to the forefront on the question of Palestine and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It was a victory not only for the Palestinian people, but also for all the region’s peoples and all those who believed in the rule of law and strove to uphold the reputation and integrity of the United Nations.

In addition to affirming that the powers and responsibilities of the United Nations in matters of peace and security made the construction of the wall a matter of direct concern to the Organization, the Court had determined that the wall’s construction was contrary to international law.  Among the provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law applicable to the situation, the Court had cited The Hague Regulations, the four Geneva Conventions, the International Conventions on Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Reviewing the opinion’s contents, he noted that the Court had rejected Israel’s “security-based” justifications for the wall’s construction.  Israel could not rely on a right to self-defence nor on a state of necessity to preclude the wrongfulness of the wall’s construction.  And, among the legal ramifications of the construction, the Court had determined that Israel had an obligation to cease construction of the wall, to dismantle those parts already constructed and to repeal or render ineffective all legislative and regulatory acts related to its construction.  It must also make reparation for all damage caused by the construction.  The broader community of States had the obligation not to recognize the illegal situation, which had resulted from the wall’s construction, nor to render aid or assistance for its maintenance.  All States party to the Fourth Geneva Convention had the additional obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with the provisions of that Convention.

The draft text presently before the General Assembly, he explained, had a twofold purpose:  acceptance of the advisory opinion; and a call for compliance with international legal obligations, as set out by the opinion, from Israel and from other Member States.  In the event of non-compliance, States must be ready -- individually, regionally and collectively -- to undertake actions consistent with their legal obligation, as determined by the Court.  Those included actions against all settlement activities and settlement products, as well as sanctions against companies or entities involved in the wall’s construction.

It was clear, he said, that the Security Council’s further involvement in such actions would be necessary.  Israel had already declared its rejection of the Court’s authority and had continued construction of the wall.  The Security Council could not be absolved of its responsibility, irrespective of the threat of veto.  The threat of veto would not thwart those determined to uphold international law.  Successive vetoes, he added, had contributed nothing to the search for peace; instead, they had harmed the integrity of the system and engendered criticism of the Organization’s credibility and efficacy.  Threatening to use the veto in regard of the advisory opinion was tantamount to attacking the system.

In conclusion, he stressed that the “Road Map”, which enjoyed international consensus and support, could neither survive nor proceed unless construction of the wall ceased.  The wall was making the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible to achieve.  In that regard, the Quartet must take a clear position.  Moreover, proposals or developments such as the occupying Power’s withdrawal from Gaza must be carried out as a part of the Road Map.  That required that Israel take similar steps in the West Bank and would, of course, also require, and be contingent upon, cessation of the wall’s construction and removal of its existing parts.

ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) speaking on behalf of the Arab Group of States, said the Assembly session today was an apt response to the clear opinion of the International Court of Justice.  Despite media distortion of the Court’s ruling, everyone should recognize that the opinion was law, nonetheless.  The international community must respect the opinion and the Assembly must now set the way forward.

Previous resolutions adopted by the Assembly, as well as the Security Council, had consistently declared Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories illegal.  But for more than 37 years, Israel has defied that assertion, he said.  For decades the Assembly had confirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination under the Charter while Israel had spared no effort to suppress that right with increasingly illegal actions, up to and including the construction of the wall.  The Court’s ruling has mad it clear that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was non-negotiable, he said.

Even though the Court had ruled that construction of the wall amounted to de facto annexation of Palestinian lands, Israel had determined to continue its illegal policies.  The Court did not accept Israel’s reasons for building the wall, nor the creative legal terminology it had employed to describe the land it was confiscating.  The Court had declared that the wall was illegal and must be dismantled.  It also ruled that reparations must be made for the damages caused.  Those were not theoretical musings, but principles by which the international community could uphold the rule of law.

His delegation was planning to circulate a draft resolution to the Assembly later today with the aim of not only having the body react positively to the Court’s opinion, but to see that the ruling’s salient points were reprinted in any subsequent resolution.  The text would call on Israel to dismantle the parts of the wall already built, repeal legislative and administrative measures and repair damages to land and homes during the construction.  By supporting the Court’s opinion, the Assembly would show the world that, despite the realities of political power and expedience, justice, when sought, could be found.  The Court had confirmed that the cause of the Palestinian people was a just one.

DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) said the persistent campaign carried out by Palestine to manufacture an alternate world in which there was but one victim and one villain, one in which there were Palestinian rights but not responsibilities and Israel responsibilities but not rights, had contributed little to United Nations credibility and nothing to the cause of peace.  Instead, last December the International Court of Justice had been dragged into that virtual reality and asked to answer a distorted question, devised to place the response to terrorism on trial without questioning the terrorism itself.  The purpose had been to create a process so perverted that the Court would be compelled to ignore the suffering of innocent Israelis and the obligations of the Palestinian side to prevent terrorism.  Sadly, that aim had been realized last Friday.

Together with a large number of States, Israel had not supported the request for the advisory opinion, he stressed, as it could not grant legitimacy to a tainted procedure, nor fully engage in a counterproductive and harmful initiative.  The General Assembly had acted wrongly, politicizing the Court and turning a judicial organ into an actor on the political stage.  Now, all those States that had expressed concern about the misuse of the advisory process must be wary of allowing the process to dictate the international agenda.  It would be a grave mistake to allow an intensely political manoeuvre to undermine prospects for progress on the ground.  Equally dangerous, the Assembly’s action might be seen to reward the misguided and politically motivated recourse to the Court.

Israel was not the first State, nor would it be the last, to have a difference of opinion with a position taken by the Court, he said.  While retaining respect for the institution of the Court, his country had been dismayed to see that the 60-plus-page opinion had addressed neither the brutal terrorism faced by innocent Israelis, nor the ongoing refusal of the Palestinian leadership to bring that terrorism to an end.  That terrorism was the very motivation for construction of the security fence, which made the Court’s silence deafening.  The Court’s omission was legally inexplicable and morally inexcusable, yet Israel had been urged to put more faith in international institutions and actors, to trust their objectivity and fairness.

Like every measure that aimed to prevent terrorism, the security fence raised complex legal and humanitarian issues, he acknowledged.  The fence and its route were under a constant process of review and change, and every affected individual -– Palestinian or Israeli -– had the right to petition Israel’s Supreme Court.  As recognized by the Supreme Court in its 30 June decision, that the fence did not follow the route of the “Green Line” served as evidence that it was based upon justifiable security concerns, rather than inappropriate political ones.  The Supreme Court had laid out a proportionality test, which would be used to determine the proper balance between the fence and the rights of those affected by it.

Israel would comply fully with the decision of its Courts, he stressed.  Following the Supreme Court’s judgement, the Government had announced that it would re-examine the entire route to ensure compliance with international law.  Yet no account had been taken of that position by the International Court of Justice.  Instead, the Court had relied upon inaccurate information, which had misrepresented Israel’s legal position.  Moreover, the views expressed by the Court did not relate to the legal authority to erect a fence in principle, but to a “specific course”, which the Court had presumed to exist.  Examining the route’s legality demanded a proportionality assessment and required specific knowledge of topographical, security, environmental and humanitarian considerations at each section of the fence.  So complex an issue could not be addressed with so little opportunity for forensic examination, nor could definitive conclusions be reached on an obviously inadequate evidentiary record.

Israel recognized that it had responsibilities, he said, but it was not alone.  The Palestinians, who called upon his country to comply with a non-biding opinion, must comply with their binding legal obligations.  The Palestinian side must abandon terror as a strategic choice; that straightforward measure would lead to removal of the fence.  In the months since the advisory opinion had been requested, it had become clear that the fence worked.  And in closing the avenues of terror, the path to peace could be reopened.  There was now a genuine chance to restart the Road Map, as a result of the disengagement plan.  That opportunity had been created by the fence’s security benefits.  The General Assembly should today correct the error made last December and make a relevant and constructive contribution to ending violence, terrorism and incitement, and promoting peace, dignity and prosperity.

PAUL BADJI, (Senegal), in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the clear exhaustive and detailed opinion of the Court represented an irrefutable juridical ruling to which all States, including Israel, must conform.  The decision clearly stated that the wall was illegal and that Israel’s failure to halt construction was a further violation of international law.

He said that the Court had unambiguously asserted that construction of the wall must cease, standing portions must be dismantled and repairs be made for damages incurred to Palestinian people and lands.  And while the Committee had consistently upheld Israel’s right to defend itself, the Court had ruled that the serious humanitarian effects and breaches of international law that flowed from the construction of the fence outweighed that assertion.  In fact, the wall, a system of fences and barriers, made the creation of a contiguous PalestinianState practically impossible.

He said the Court decision was an historic one and, if applied fully in good faith, it would set the course for the international community to help relaunch the negations between the two sides towards implementation of the Road Map peace plan.  The Committee believed that was the best way to ensure peace.  Moreover, the Committee would reaffirm the United Nations continued leading role in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict until the objectives of the Road Map had been attained.  He said that the Court ruling also offered the international community a unique opportunity to accelerate the progress of the Palestinian people in their struggle to exercise self-determination.

MOHD RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the advisory opinion, which had enumerated the obligations of Israel that stemmed from its construction of the separation wall, represented a significant milestone in international law.  Recalling the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, enunciated in previous session of the tenth emergency special session, he stressed that the wall was illegal.  Construction on it must come to an end and those areas already built must be dismantled.  The wall violated the Fourth Geneva Convention in its de facto annexation of Palestinian territory and had led to dire humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian people.  Moreover, it posed an obstacle to implementation of the Road Map and might provoke further violence from the Palestinian people, who struggled to survive under the harsh Israeli occupation.

The Court’s conclusions served as clear testimony that the wall stood in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law, he noted.  Furthermore, Israel had obviously chosen not to comply with the demands of the General Assembly.  As of today, Israel had neither stopped nor reversed the wall’s construction, but had instead demonstrated continued intransigence.  Calling upon Israel fully to observe the advisory opinion, he said the draft text presently before the General Assembly was intended to ensure such a situation.

Finally, he added, the Non-Aligned Movement maintained that a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only be ensured on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions.  The General Assembly must muster the political will necessary to respond to the present situation.  As the consequences of allowing the construction of the wall to continue on its present route were fearful, adoption of the draft resolution would send a strong and clear message to Israel and express solidarity with the Palestinian people.

AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said the Court had confirmed what the international community had widely believed about Israel’s conduct in the occupied territories, particularly with its unrestrained construction of the separation wall.  The Charter clearly stated that the acquisition of territory by use or threat of force was illegal.  It was clear that Israel was in violation of that principle.  The advisory opinion further confirmed Israel’s continued violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and that it, and all other States occupying foreign territories, had no grounds on which to construct such walls and fences in the territories under occupation.

Besides being illegal, the continued construction of the separation wall would inflict enormous humanitarian suffering on the already-affected Palestinian people, he said.  The 2003 report of a Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights had calculated that some 200,000 Palestinians would be affected by the wall and that those living between the barrier and the Green Line would effectively be cut off from their farmland, workplaces health clinics and schools.

The real issue here is that, for over three decades, Israel has remained in illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and has suppressed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, he continued.  At the same time, history had demonstrated that the use of force or building wall-and-wire fences had never been able to crush the legitimate aspirations of people under occupation.

Permanent security could only be established by respecting those aspirations, not by repressive tactics, assassinations, economic blockades and collective punishments.  The construction of the wall would impede the realization of the Quartet-backed Road Map peace plan, he said.  Israel had a real opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to long-term peace in the Middle East by accepting in good faith the advisory opinion and implementing the obligations arising from it.  That would build confidence and enhance the prospects for reviving the peace process.  For its part, the international community had the opportunity to uphold the principles of justice and the rule of law.  It should ask Israel to comply with its legal obligations as determined by the Court

A. GOPINATHAN (India) said the violence in West Asia since September 2000 had claimed over 3,500 Palestinian lives and close to 1,000 Israeli lives, leaving countless more injured.  Israel’s policies of closure, containment and curfew in the occupied territories had not brought the two sides any closer to the settlement of their dispute.  On the contrary, it had only exacerbated the plight and suffering of Palestinian people and fuelled the violence afflicting the region.  The violence also went beyond deaths and injuries, he said, adding that it also affected the economies on both sides and the living conditions of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

India had consistently maintained that the only solution to the ongoing violence lies in the path of political dialogue and reconciliation.  The absence of any progress in the political process was a matter of considerable concern, he said.  There was, however, no alternative but to persevere in the search or peaceful solution.  Recent opinion polls -– in both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories -– favouring peace and reconciliation had been optimistic signs that both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority should heed.

Unfortunately, neither side had made progress on their core obligations under the Quartet-backed Road Map peace plan.  India called upon the parties to fulfil their obligations under that plan, which represented the only framework towards attaining peace.  India also called on Israel to take into account the advisory opinion, in keeping with the overwhelming international opinion on the matter.

JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER (Qatar) said the Court’s advisory opinion that Israel’s construction of the wall was illegal and had had a negative effect on thousands of Palestinians had been unambiguous.  The decision had rejected Israel’s claim that the wall had been built for reasons of defence.  In fact, the wall was being erected to extend Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories.  While the opinion was an advisory one, it was, nevertheless, international law and should be respected by all States, including Israel.

He called on Israel to abide by the decision, as a clear step towards achieving a two-State solution to the conflict.  He also called on the United Nations and the wider international community to compel Israel to abide by the opinion, in particular its call to dismantle standing portions of the barrier and to provide recompense for damages caused.  Israel had continued building the barrier, flouting international law in its aggressive efforts to ensure a fait accompli on the ground.  He was totally against such actions and would call on all States to ensure that Israel complied with international law, as required by resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Court.

DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said the starting point of the debate should be recognition that no sustainable political dialogue or peace was possible until the fundamental rights and obligations of both Palestinians and Israelis –- including the right to security -– were understood and respected by all.  Both peoples had the right to live in security, free from the daily threat of random violence.  No situation in which one side enjoyed more basic rights than the other could long be sustained.

The General Assembly had adopted an October 2003 resolution that demanded cessation of construction on the wall, he recalled, as well as a December 2003 resolution that requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legality of the wall.  Now that the Court had concluded Israel could not rely on a justification of self-defence, nor a state of necessity to preclude the wrongfulness of the wall’s construction, and had clearly stated that the wall and settlements were contrary to international law and international humanitarian law, Israel was under a legally-binding obligation to dismantle the wall and provide compensation for all damage caused by its construction.  Moreover, States party to the Fourth Geneva Convention had an obligation to ensure Israel’s compliance with that instrument’s provisions.

The advisory opinion ended the debate on whether the separation wall could be regarded as a legitimate security measure, he concluded.  The Court’s opinion supported the argument proffered by the South African legal team, that if Israel had really been interested in protecting its people, it would have built the wall on its own, rather than Palestinian, land.  All law-abiding States must now affirm the Court’s ruling and demonstrate that no State was above international law.  The authority and integrity of the Court was at stake.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that the Assembly had reconvened today to complete the work it had begun seven months ago when it had requested the Court to rule on the legality and consequences of the wall Israel was constructing in the occupied Palestinian territories.  So the United Nations governing body was meeting not to deplore or denounce Israel’s outlawed practices, nor to reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to live in peace, but to reaffirm the principles of international law as handed down by the highest legal body in the international system.  The Court decision reflected the position of the international community that the construction of the wall was illegal and must be stopped and dismantled.  The decision was the final word.

The wall was a wall of segregation and a wall of suppression and repression, he continued.  The Court opinion had stressed the need of the Assembly and the Security Council to take further action to stop Israel’s illegal practices.  Egypt looked forward to the adoption of a resolution on the matter, with wide support and fully respecting international law.

Some might believe that calling on the Israeli Government to stop building the wall might “cloud the clear days ahead for the region” –- namely, Israel’s proposed withdrawal from some areas in Gaza.  But the real impetus for peace revolved around building confidence between the two sides.  That meant Israel’s abiding by the Court’s decision and to follow though with its withdrawal and other legislative measures to end its illegal occupation.

JOHN DANFORTH (United States) said the text presently before the General Assembly, and the advisory opinion it endorsed, pointed away from a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Therefore, the resolution must be rejected.  A solution to the tragedy of the Middle East must be political, and must entail agreement by both parties to a reasonable compromise.  The nature of the political process was balance, in which the claims of each side were accommodated.  This text was not balanced.  It was wholly one-sided and made no mention of the terrorist threat posed to Israel.  The text was the very opposite of the Road Map.

The Road Map, which aimed to achieve progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian and institution-building fields, would lead to a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable PalestinianState living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, he added.  The Court itself had stressed that the only way forward would come through a negotiated solution.

Some speakers had recognized that the Court’s opinion was complex and required careful analysis, he concluded.  The rush to pass the draft denied the time for reflection such a critical subject deserved.  In particular, the interpretation of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter contained in the Court’s opinion seemed to say that the right of a State to defend itself existed only in the event of an attack by another State and that the right of self-defence did not exist against non-State actors.  If that was the meaning of Article 51, the Charter would be irrelevant in a time when the major threats to peace came not from States, but from terrorists.

ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti) said the Court decision ruling against Israel for its construction of a separation barrier in the occupied Palestinian territories went deep to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The decision unequivocally reconfirmed that Israel was illegally occupying Palestinian territory and that its construction of settlements violated international law.  The construction of the wall –- and particularly its route -– had been the clearest manifestation yet of departure from the armistice line of 1949, thus prejudging the outcome of future negotiations by rendering the two-State solution physically impossible.

Not surprisingly, Israel had promptly dismissed the Court’s ruling and denounced the process as a “politically motivated manoeuvre”.  He said that no one was “casual, dismissive or indifferent” to Israel’s right to security or its right to exist.  There were no conflicting views on that, but it was simply not the issue.  The Court had been clear on that point, recognizing Israel’s right to defend its citizens, while stressing that the barrier, which constituted a breach of international humanitarian law, could not be justified by military exigencies, or by requirements of national security or public order.

Israel could call the barrier by any other name in its attempt to justify its illegal actions, but no one could deny that the barrier caused incalculable hardship and suffering among the Palestinian people, he said.  As a sovereign nation and United Nations Member, Israel must commit itself to the restoration of Palestinian rights.  Security for Israel was not a “stand alone proposition”.  Rather, it was intertwined with the interdependent and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Without tangible progress in the implementation of the Road Map, both parties were doomed to mutual destruction, eternal strife and uncertain futures, he said, adding that the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process must take a leading role in building international consensus on this “exceedingly critical conflict”.

PAK GIL YON (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) hailed the Court opinion as a victory for Palestinian and Arab peoples and all those who stood for the Palestinian people’s cause.  The decision -- which held that Israel’s construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank was illegal -– also served as a legal basis for a fair solution to the question of Palestine.

He said that the Court decision also spoke eloquently on the Middle East peace process, finding that peace could never be achieved in that troubled region as long as Israel’s occupation and oppressive policies continued.  It also reaffirmed the principle that the use of force was not a solution to any issue.  Israel should, therefore, suspend its “undisguised State terrorism” in the name of security interests, and withdraw its forces from the occupied Palestinian territories.  It should also stop construction and expansion of settlements and, further, abide by the Court opinion.

He also said that Israel was still in the position to continue its illegal activities, mainly because certain countries actively backed it politically, militarily and materially.  In that regard, instigating or protecting Israel’s violent actions by taking advantage of privileged positions in the Security Council must end.  The Council should return to impartiality and take further steps to end the illegal situation brought about by the barrier.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea extended its full support to, and solidarity with, the just cause of the Palestinian people to take back their legitimate national rights to return to their homeland and to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

ABDUL-DAYEM M.S. MUBAREZ (Yemen) said the Court’s decision had affirmed that international law and international norms remained a referent for Government behaviour in the international arena.  The Palestinian people had needed the decision to reaffirm their rights, at a time when the logic of might had been about to devour and replace the rule of law.  It should be noted that Israeli colonialism constituted a setback to the present age, and a return to previously rejected practices.

Welcoming the opinion as a just position based upon international law, he said the Court had proved transparent and responsible.  The proposed resolution put before the General Assembly and Security Council their responsibilities to redress the illegal situation.  The international community must assume its full responsibility to impress upon Israel the need to implement the ruling.

It was clear that Israel’s purpose in building the wall had nothing to do with security, but instead represented an attempt to create a new de facto situation on the ground, one which directly impacted upon the outcome of any peaceful settlement.  Reiterating that the solution would come through a just and peaceful negotiation, he said implementation of the Road Map must be expedited and Israel’s attempts to circumvent the Road Map rejected.  Israel’s rejection of the Court’s opinion and its continued construction reflected that State’s disdain for international law, and for the United Nations.

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said that the advisory opinion confirmed what most of the world had known from the beginning, namely that the construction of the wall was illegal and constituted a cynical affront to the peace process.  The opinion had also proved that the Assembly’s action of last December to refer the matter to the Court for its interpretation was correct.  After all, last October, the Assembly had demanded that Israel should stop and reverse the construction.  The opinion had also confirmed that all of Israel’s action in the occupied Palestinian territory against Palestinians was both “outrageous and illegal”, and deserving of condemnation by the international community.  The ruling was a triumphant achievement for the Palestinian people, whose sufferings had multiplied over the years at the hands of the Israeli military occupation.

He said that that confirmation represented a historical legal, ethical and political finding, which Israel and its allies should respect and honour.  Further, the Court also stated that the Assembly and the Security Council should determine what steps to take to terminate the illegal situation brought about by the wall’s construction.  He was pleased that the Assembly was meeting today, because it would be wrong to permit the illegality of Israel to continue to stand for even one day more.  The required steps must be taken to ensure the implementation of the Court’s ruling.  At the same time, the peace process remained a viable political process.  The legal track became a complementary aspect only because of problems that had been created on the political track.  He hoped that all those who genuinely sought peace in the Middle East would see the advisory opinion as an encouragement to return to the road that was headed towards peace.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) recalled that his country had previously expressed its position that construction of the wall had negatively affected the livelihood of Palestinians and prejudiced the outcome of final status negotiations.  The construction of the wall inside the “Green Line” appeared to be in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law, based on the limited information available, and must be stopped.  Based on that position, it was regrettable that Israel had continued its construction.

Noting the recent ruling of Israel’s Supreme Court ordering the changes to the wall’s route and the Government’s subsequent response, he said Israel’s future course of action would be carefully observed to see if the changes would bring an end to construction of the wall inside the Green Line.  As determined by the Court, the construction of the wall was contrary to international law.  Israel was obligated to act appropriately.

Also noting the large number of innocent Israeli lives lost in terrorist attacks by Palestinian extremists, he said the Palestinian Authority must improve its security capacity and suppress terrorism.  The fundamental resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would come through negotiation between the two parties and full implementation of the Road Map.  Both parties should implement their obligations in good faith.

ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that the ongoing situation in the Middle East required everyone in the international community to urgently search for ways to help the parties overcome the profound mistrust that was hampering them from finding a way out of the long-running dispute.  While no one had a ready-made formula for ending the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, the main thing was that there had been general agreement that the objectives of the Road Map peace plan held a particular significance.

With that in mind then, the upcoming September ministerial-level meeting of the diplomatic Quartet would provide an excellent opportunity to move the peace process forward.  His Government paid tribute to the work currently under way by Egypt and Jordan to promote the peace process.

He respected the opinion of the Court on the implications of the wall.  Yet, it was important that the opinion not be used as an excuse to whip up passions.  The parties, as well as the wider international community, must seize the opportunity to move the peace process out of its current deadlock.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said the advisory opinion constituted an important development in the long endeavours of the Palestinian people to realize their basic national and humanitarian rights.  The Court had been clear and unambiguous in finding that the wall’s construction was contrary to international law and calling for construction to cease, for those parts already built to be dismantled and for all relevant legislative and regulatory acts to be repealed or rendered ineffective.  Israel should also be held responsible for all damage caused by the wall’s construction.

The Court had recognized the failure of the Security Council, as a consequence of the use of the veto by one of the permanent members, and the subsequent legality of the General Assembly’s actions, he recalled.  It had also recognized the need for both bodies to take further action to bring the illegal situation that had resulted from the wall’s construction to an end.  And while, as frequently reiterated by the media and some official quarters, the Court’s decision was not binding, the specific legal obligations outlined by the Court were binding upon all members of the international community and could not be ignored at will.

The Court’s opinion, he concluded, presented an opportunity to address the Palestinian crisis more ardently.  The General Assembly must seize this opportunity.  A strong vote in favour of the draft resolution would indicate the international community’s interest in furthering the rule of law at the international level and help redress the gross injustice done to the Palestinian people as a result of the wall’s construction.

BONIFACE G. CHIDYAUSIKU (Zimbabwe) said that the Assembly must take action based on the verdict of the Court.  The wall infringed on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and reinforced the Israeli settlements by facilitating their extension, in disregard of the fact that they were illegal under international law.  Further, the wall destroyed the economic and social basis of the lives of the Palestinian people.  That would not bring peace and security to Israel.  Walls were the most primitive and ineffective forms of defence and history was littered with examples of such failures.  The only guarantee for peace and security for both the Palestinian and Israeli people was the realization of the two-State solution.

He said that the Palestinian people needed the international community to reign in Israel and make it comply with United Nations resolutions like everybody else.  As long as Israel did not comply with them -– “with guaranteed impunity by you know who” -– the United Nations was rendered impotent.  The double standards had to stop.  For how long would those with the means to end the violence look away while the Palestinian people continued to suffer?  No amount of force would ever succeed in cowing a people under occupation.

NGUYEN DUY CHIEN (Viet Nam) said that a just and lasting settlement to the conflict could only be found on the basis of the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).  Serious efforts must be undertaken to achieve a two-State solution that would ensure the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine and the existence of Israel, side-by-side in peace and security within secured and recognized borders as envisaged in Security Council resolutions 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003).  From the outset, he had supported efforts by the Assembly to seek an advisory opinion from the World Court, whose ruling had provided an authoritative answer.

He said that the Court, in making solid findings and indisputable conclusions, had not only made good services to the international community as a whole, and to the United Nations in particular, but had also performed its role as the supreme arbiter of international legality.  No doubt, that opinion would contribute greatly to the just cause aimed at finding a satisfactory solution to the Middle East conflict.  Now was the time for the Assembly and the Security Council to take the required action to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the wall’s construction.

DON MacKAY (New Zealand) said that the Court’s opinion carried the weight of the highest judicial organ of the United Nations and, as such, that should be followed.  The State of Israel had the right to protect its citizens, and New Zealand had the greatest sympathy for the deaths and injuries, as well as the victims’ families.  Both Israelis and Palestinians had been victims of a horrendous human toll.  He called on the leadership of both sides to stop that needless suffering.  But, as Israel’s own courts had said, there were limitations to the actions it could take in its right of self-defence.

He called on Israel to abandon the wall’s construction.  The detrimental impact on Palestinians who lived within its path –- those separated from their livelihoods or from other community facilities such as schools and hospitals -– had been well documented.  Israel’s own courts had recommended that the route of the wall should be adjusted.  Last October, his delegation had argued in the Security Council that the wall’s construction would not provide long-term security for Israel.  Only a final resolution, achieved through negotiations between the two parties, would achieve that.  He said then that the wall’s construction was undermining the peace process and the trust needed for true dialogue.  The lack of momentum in the peace efforts had graphically illustrated that point.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said the International Court of Justice had rendered an authoritative opinion on the consequences of the wall’s construction.  It had found that the wall was contrary to international law and that Israel had an obligation to cease its construction, dismantle those parts that had already been built and make reparations for damages caused by the construction of the wall.  The Court had also suggested that the United Nations, especially the General Assembly and Security Council, should consider further action to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the wall’s construction.

China held that safeguarding the Court’s and the United Nations’ authority was the common responsibility of the international community, he said.  Although the Court’s decision was not legally binding, all relevant parties should give it serious consideration.  They should also seek to promote positive developments in the Middle East peace process.

The situation in the Middle East was complex, he concluded, but the wall would not guarantee Israel’s security.  History showed that resolution of conflict through negotiation was the only path to long-term security and stability.  All relevant parties should make every effort to restore mutual trust and, thus, to return to the track of progress.

RODNEY LOPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) said Israel’s unacceptable building of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territories was another transgression to add to the long list of its aggressive and rapacious expansionist policies aimed at suppressing the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.  The Court’s opinion, ruling that the wall was illegal and asking that its standing sections be dismantled, left no room for interpretation.  Israel must halt its apartheid measures and immediately halt construction on the wall.

Although Israel had tried to deflect attention from its illegal actions by stating that security concerns had been behind the wall’s construction, the true purpose of the barrier was the enclosure of a significant portion of the total surface area of the West Bank, which amounted to de facto annexation.  Israel was once again taking a stand that obstructed any efforts to find peace.

Had the Security Council been able to act decisively or had found some way to overcome the “paralysing and crippling” United States veto, genuine peace in the Middle East -- to which all aspired -- would have been achieved long ago, he continued.  But it was clear that a lasting peace could not be attained as long as the occupation continued, unless all the territories were returned, and until Israel withdrew to the 1967 lines.

The Assembly and the Council must take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the Court ruling.  From this point on, every stone laid towards the wall’s completion was another step towards cementing Israel’s apartheid policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.  He called on the Assembly to vote in favour of the draft under consideration.

DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion must be carefully studied.  The Union, while recognizing Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, had demanded that Israel stop and reverse its construction of the wall inside the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as it was in contradiction to the relevant provisions of international law.

Also underlining the overriding importance of the political process as laid down in the Road Map, he stressed that it was the only route to achieving a negotiated two-State solution, one that would result in a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian State existing side-by-side in peace with Israel, within recognized and secure borders.

ALTAY CENGIZER (Turkey), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, recalled that facilitating the establishment of a lasting and secure peace settlement in the Middle East was the shared goal of the international community, the attainment of which required the cultivation of a productive dialogue paving the way for cooperation.  Otherwise, the current turmoil rearing its ugly head over the region would manifest itself further.

The International Court of Justice had reached a ground-breaking decision, which stemmed from an impartial legal analysis of actions on the ground, he said.  Although the Court’s ruling was non-binding, it should be embraced as clarifying the reach and extent of international humanitarian law and of human rights protection.  The international community must not ignore the issue.  It was the duty of all United Nations organs to reiterate that the basic parameters of a solution could not be shaken by any de facto, unilateral action on the ground.

Consistently rejecting terrorism and not denying the right of all States to fight that scourge, the Conference held that it should in no way be construed as condoning the violation of others’ legitimate rights, he concluded.  The wall, in its present form, was not a healthy solution.  It undermined the basic vision of Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side in safety and security in their respective States.  It also strengthened the perception of an unjust Israeli occupation and restricted the basic human rights of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.  Therefore, the focus must fall upon the Road Map.

S.A. ADEKANYE (Nigeria) recalled that the General Assembly had decided that the Palestinian issue must be settled in all its aspects on the basis of international legitimacy.  By its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 1970, the General Assembly had reaffirmed the illegality of acquisition of territory by threat or use of force, as well as the inherent right of all peoples to self-determination.  Now, the International Court of Justice had determined that the construction of the wall was contrary to international law and that Israel was obligated to stop its breaches of international law.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had lasted too long, he stressed.  The concerned parties and the international community must not allow the situation to continue.  Further, nothing should be done to worsen the already charged and volatile atmosphere.  With that in mind, Israel was called upon to honour its obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations and accept the Court’s findings.  Such a move would brighten the prospects for a sustainable peace between the parties and in the Middle East.

However, it must also be recognized that both parties were needed to make peace and that unilateral action by one, even in good faith, would not necessarily result in genuine peace, he concluded.  Both Israel and Palestine must stop all acts of discord and violence and restart the Road Map peace process.  They must summon the political courage to resume negotiations in the spirit of flexibility and compromise.

JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said that his country regretted that the Court had ruled on the barrier last week.  Australia had voted against the Assembly resolution that had called on the Court to make an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s security barrier.  Australia remained of the view that the resolution unfairly isolated a single issue in a complex conflict, that it served no purpose given the nature and content of resolutions already passed by the Assembly, that it would politicize the Court and would distract the parties -– which was happening –- from the urgent need to resume negotiations in the tragic and long-running Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Australia would urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet their commitments under the United Nations-endorsed Road Map and to move towards a two-State solution, he said.  Australia noted the Court advisory opinion and recognized the negotiations under the Road Map and the need for those efforts to be encouraged.

MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that, focusing on the narrow question of the wall, the international community had found no legal justification for its construction and had placed an obligation upon Israel to make reparations for all damage caused by its construction.  Moreover, the International Court of Justice had asked the United Nations to consider what further action was necessary to bring the illegal situation to an end.

Fully supporting the advisory opinion, he, nevertheless, cautioned that the question at hand was much broader than the narrow issue of the wall’s construction.  The two peoples must find a modus vivendi:  Israel had the right to live in peace within secure borders and the Palestinians had the right to an independent State.  Neither terrorism nor the excessive use of force would help them find the needed solution, nor would the wall.  A negotiated settlement would provide the only way forward.  Both sides must build bridges, and the international community must help them to find a solution and contribute to the establishment and maintenance of peace in that region.

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For information media. Not an official record.