Israel challenges court on barrier

Israel has formally submitted a written challenge to the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on the legality of its West Bank separation barrier.

    Palestinians believe the wall grabs their most fertile land

    "Our ambassador to The Hague submitted the written statement at lunchtime to the court registrar," ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled told reporters on Friday. 

    "Our main argument is centred on the question of jurisdiction and propriety. We believe the court should not and can not deal with political issues." 

    The ICJ was requested to deliver a verdict on the barrier after a vote by the United Nations General Assembly early last month.

    Hearings are scheduled to start on 23 February. 

    The Palestinians have argued that the route of the barrier, which at points juts deep into their territory, proves that 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 that it is merely designed to prevent attacks on its soil, such as the bombing of a bus in Jerusalem on Thursday which left 10 people dead as well as the Palestinian bomber. 

    Embarrassing Israel

    Although any ruling from the court is non-binding, the case has the potential to greatly embarrass Israel. 

    "No institution or country can give us lessons in morality in regard to the fence after the scenes of horror in Jerusalem."

    Ranaan Gissin
    Sharon's chief spokesman

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to travel to Washington ahead of the hearing to meet with US President George Bush, who has said the route of the barrier is undermining confidence in the internationally drafted peace "road map". 

    Sharon's chief spokesman argued after Thursday's bombing that such attacks vindicated the barrier's construction. 

    "This terrorist attack is the best argument that we can use to
    defend the sacred right of Israel to exercise legitimate
    self-defense," Ranaan Gissin told AFP. 

    "No institution or country can give us lessons in morality in regard to the fence after the scenes of horror in Jerusalem," he added. 

    'Walls and massacres'

    Sharon will travel to the US ahead
    of the wall hearing

    In a phone call to US Secretary of State Colin Powell after the blast, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also emphasised the need for the barrier. 

    "Mr Shalom added that there is no doubt that the security fence is the appropriate response to Palestinian terror attacks," a foreign ministry statement said. 

    "The fence is effective and it prevents attacks from the places where it exists." 

    The Palestinian ambassador to the Arab League said the bus bombing proved the barrier cannot guarantee Israel's security. 

    "Walls and massacres, as well as the humiliation and destruction of the property of Palestinians can only bring more violence," Muhammad Subeih told Egyptian state television.



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