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Cuba, Belize slam fence as ICJ hearings enter second day
By Tali Nir, Haaretz Correspondent (The Hague), Haaretz Staff and Agencies

Cuba and Belize presented their arguments Tuesday morning as the hearings on the legality of the West Bank separation fence went into their second day at the International Court in The Hague.

Representatives from Indonesia, Jordan and Madagascar were also to speak Tuesday morning, while Malaysia and Senegal were to present their arguments to the court in the afternoon.

Cuba, a longtime supporter of Palestinian nationalism whose own human rights record has come under international criticism, joined a line-up of mostly Arab and Muslim states urging the court to declare the chain of fences and walls illegal.

"The construction of the wall by Israel violates fundamental principles and norms enshrined in the charter of the United Nations and international law," Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno Fernandez told the 15-judge panel.

But spokesman from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem dismissed the dozen countries presenting oral arguments in support of the Palestinians as "the usual collection of dictatorships and Arab states against Israel."

The tiny Central American state of Belize was the only participant so far to back Israel's right to take measures to protect its citizens against a campaign of suicide bombings.

But it too urged the court to declare the barrier illegal. "We have to bring to an end the ignoble terrorism that takes place in Israel and we recognize Israel is entitled to protect itself. But the building of a wall is a bad and inappropriate response," Belize representative Bassam Freiha said.

Cuba's communist-run government, however, was unequivocal in criticizing the barrier as a "crime" against humanitarian law.

Palestinians: Two-state solution in danger
The hearings began Monday with arguments against the fence by the Palestinian permanent observer to the United Nations, Nasser al-Kidwa, who charged that the network of fences and walls would "render the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict practically impossible."

Al-Kidwa also signaled the view that a ruling against the fence could pave the way for international sanctions against Israel.

He said he hoped a non-binding ruling by the court could lead to the same kind of international action that followed the court's 1971 opinion on South Africa, which led to sanctions against the apartheid state.

Al-Kidwa told the judicial panel that if completed, the fence would leave Palestinians isolated in enclaves in only half of the West Bank.

Israel, which is boycotting the hearings, says the barrier prevents Palestinian suicide bombers from infiltrating its towns and cities. The Palestinians say it is a veiled bid to annex land they want for a state.

The international court, Israel maintains, has no jurisdiction over the issue.

"[The Palestinians'] real aim has been to try to get Israel in the dock of the International Court of Justice, to stand there and point at Israel and say you are an outlaw state," said Alan Baker, legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry. "And this is something that no Israeli government was prepared to suffer."

The United States and members of the European Union also declined to attend the hearings, on the grounds that the court did not have the authority to rule on an issue that they believe should be settled by negotiations between the two sides.

Any advisory opinion by the court "risks undermining the peace process and politicizing the court," said the American written submission.

On Monday, the court heard also arguments from representatives of South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.


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