|Cuba, Belize slam fence as ICJ hearings enter
|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
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
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
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
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
"[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
On Monday, the court heard also arguments from representatives of South
Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.
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