Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom "praised the positions of the United States, the European Union and other states which expressed reservations on the right of the International Court of Justice to hear this case (on the barrier)," a ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

"He hopes the court will decline to discuss the legality of the security fence, which is a political question," she said.

According to an Israeli newspaper, 15 members of the EU and ten members-in-waiting, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, South Africa and Senegal joined Israel in submitting affidavits to the ICJ. Several EU countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, submitted their own separate affidavits to the court.

The newspaper added that most of the countries who have called into question the authority of the court have also voiced concerns about the route of the fence where it strays from the Green Line into the West Bank. The EU, the report said, has also expressed its opposition to the route of the barrier.

Precedent claimed

In Washington on Friday, spokesman Richard Boucher said the State Department had filed a brief with the ICJ in The Hague saying the UN referral could damage Middle East peace efforts and set a dangerous precedent.
 

Shalom (R) hopes court will decline
to discuss barrier's legality

He said the continuing US view is that the "referral is inappropriate and may impede efforts to achieve progress towards a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians".

A senior state department official later said the UN General Assembly decision to send the matter to the ICJ would bode ill for the future.
 
"This is a very unusual referral and we're concerned that if the court accepts the case it could open the door" for spurious complaints, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Brussels opposition

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, on Friday reaffirmed Brussels opposition to the hearing, although the bloc is also adamantly opposed to the barrier.
 
Palestinians have argued the barrier's route, which at points juts deep into their territory, proves it is little more than an attempt to pre-empt the borders of their promised state and grab some of their most fertile land.
 
Israel insists it is merely designed for "security reasons" to prevent attacks on its soil.
 
It formally submitted a written challenge on Friday to the right of ICJ to rule on the barrier.

But the Palestinian Authority on Friday reportedly insisted that the Hague-based court had full jurisdiction and accused Israel of trying to politicise the case and perpetuate the "occupation of 3.5 million Palestinians against their will".