Shalom: Israel won't accept World Court involvement in fence

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 03-Jul-04 | Author: Nathan Guttman| Source: Ha'aretz

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who is currently visiting the U.S.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on Friday that Israel would not accept "external involvement" by the International Court of Justice regarding the West Bank separation fence.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, will render its judgment in a public hearing on July 9, one of the most high-profile rulings in its 58-year history.

"We believe that Israel can deal with this issue by itself," Shalom told reporters at the White House following his talks with Rice, adding that "we can't accept any external involvement from the International Court of Justice."

"We don't believe it's the place that this issue should be discussed. It should be discussed between the two parties - the Israelis and the Palestinians - with other members that are involved in the peace process," he told reporters.

On Wednesday, the High Court ordered changes to the route of a 30km stretch of the fence northwest of Jerusalem, ruling that the path "injures the local inhabitants in a severe and acute way, while violating their rights under humanitarian international law."

Shalom said Friday that he was also asking the United States to do "everything it can" to block passage of a Palestinian-backed United Nations resolution on the barrier.

The UN's top court said it would hand down an "advisory opinion." Such a ruling is non-binding, but Israel fears the General Assembly, where pro-Palestinian sentiment is strong, could use it to lobby for sanctions against Jerusalem.

Shalom told Rice that the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would approve the disengagement plan by March 1, 2005, and that implementation would come soon after. He warned, however, that terror attacks would make it more difficult for the cabinet to approve the plan.

The plan includes a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the removal of four settlements in the northern West Bank.

The foreign minister said after the meeting that he had assured Rice that Israel was committed to dismantling all illegal West Bank outposts, as demanded by Washington.

Shalom told Rice that the two month extension given to the Palestinian Authority by Egypt with regards to implementing security reforms in the ranks of PA security services was not acceptable to Israel, and that implementation would have to begin immediately.

The foreign minister also told his host that Israel objected to the Egyptian proposal to convene the "small quartet" consisting of Israel, the United States, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority in a meeting of foreign ministers in Washington in October.

FM warns of Iranian threat
Shalom also said that the international community could not allow Iran to further its nuclear program, and warned that its efforts to develop longer-range missiles could pose a threat to European nations.

"We cannot allow the Iranians to move forward in their efforts to develop nuclear weapons," he said.

In June 1981, Israel Air Force warplanes targeted and destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad, shortly before it was ready to go online.

Israel's long-held concern that it could be targeted was registered again by Shalom.

"The Iranians still continue to do everything they can in order to develop nuclear weapons that might, of course, be used against Israel," he said.

The foreign minister said Iranians have warned on several occasions that one missile fired toward Israel would destroy the country.

"I believe the concern of Israel is shared by many other countries that know how the Iranians are trying to develop new missiles with much longer range," he said, adding that they might hit many European countries, such as France, Britain, Germany and Russia.

Shalom also said Iran was involved in terror attacks, saying, "They are trying to recruit more volunteers to carry out suicide attacks against Israelis and against Western countries."