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Israeli Official: Barrier Could Cause International Isolation - 2004-01-05


A senior Israeli cabinet minister says his country risks significant international isolation over controversial plans for a barrier separating Israel from Palestinian territories.

Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told the regular weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that Israel should redraw the route of the barrier, which cuts deeply into the West Bank. He said if it does not then Israel risks being subjected to international boycotts similar to those imposed on South Africa during the apartheid era.

The International Court of Justice is scheduled to open hearings on the barrier next month at the request of the U.N. General Assembly.

Israel says the barrier, a substantial portion of which has already been built, is necessary to prevent the entry of Palestinian militants into Israel. But the Palestinian leadership says the project is an attempt to redraw borders ahead of any internationally-approved peace accord. The Bush Administration has also criticized the project.

Israeli media are reporting that the Israeli government will inform the court that it rejects its authority to deliberate on the building of the barrier.

The Ha'aretz newspaper, quoting political sources, said Monday that Israel will, nevertheless, also present substantial arguments to justify the security need for the barrier. These will also help Israel in a future campaign against any negative ruling made by the court.

The Hague court hearing on the barrier is scheduled to be held on the February 23. Interested parties have until January 30 to submit written arguments. Israel is sending the written statement but has yet to decide whether to appear before the hearing itself.

It is widely believed here that the court will rule against Israel.

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