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UN General Assembly Condemns Israeli Barrier - 2004-07-21


The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an Arab-drafted resolution that urges Israel to obey an advisory court ruling to take down a controversial West Bank separation wall.

The resolution contained milder language than the initial drafts, and was approved by a vote of 150-6. It calls on Israel to obey the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion to stop building the separation barrier, which crosses into West Bank territory, and take down parts that have been built.

The Israeli ambassador, Dan Gillerman, said the vote was unfairly politicized, and had harsh words for the General Assembly. "Allow me start with a vote of thanks. Thank God that the fate of Israel and of the Jewish people is not decided in this hall."

Israel says the wall is temporary and is intended to prevent suicide bombers from killing innocent Israelis. U.S. officials oppose the court's advisory opinion and say Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism. U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham voted against the resolution, and called it "impractical."

"The resolution diverts attention from where it should be, on practical efforts to move the parties toward realization of the ultimate goal of two states living side by side in peace and security," he said.

Earlier versions of the Palestinian-drafted resolution used language demanding that Israel obey the Court of Justice ruling, which is not legally binding. Arab diplomats lobbied European countries for support of the resolution, and in the end, accepted European suggestions for milder language.

All 25 European Union countries voted in favor of the resolution. However, U.N. General Assembly resolutions are advisory in nature, and do not force nations to act according to their recommendations.

The Palestinian Observer to the United Nations, Nasser al-Kidwa, praised the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion as "historic," and called the passage of the resolution the most important development since the 1947 U.N. resolution that called for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"The resolution of the General Assembly today, especially adopted with such overwhelming majority, also represents very important development. I might also say that this indeed could be the most important resolution of the General Assembly since the adoption of Resolution 181 of 1947," he said.

Palestinians say the wall encroaches on their territory and could prevent them from obtaining an independent state.

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