Israeli Foreign Ministry Statement Regarding International
Court of Justice Hearing On Israel's Security Fence
(February 23, 2004)
Statement by Daniel Taub, Director, General Law
Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Press Conference of Israeli
Delegation, The Hague, February 23, 2004.
bomber who blew up the number 14 bus in Jerusalem
yesterday, murdering 8 people, and wounding more than 50, was a member
of Yasser Arafat's own
Could anything be more shameful than recruiting, inciting,
and paying the murderer of 8 children - students, parents, the brother-in-law
of Israel's commercial attache here in the Hague? Could anything be
more shameful than that?
And the answer is yes, there is something more shameful:
To do all this and then come to the city of The Hague, to ask the United
Nation's Court of Justice to censure the victims of terror for trying
to defend themselves. To come to the 'Palace of Peace', to the 'Court
of Justice', on the very morning that the victims are being buried and
mourned, murdered by Arafat's own henchman, to attack Israel for building
a fence which might have saved their lives.
That is why Israel is not in the Court today. Because
along with the states of the Quartet, with the host state Holland, and
with the bulk of the democratic world which has urged the Court not
to hear the case, we know that ultimately this issue, like all the other
tough issues between us and the Palestinians, will have to be resolved
through compromise and negotiation. It certainly won't be resolved by
sending one-sided questions to the Court that seek to put those defending
themselves from terrorism on trial, but not the terrorists. And when
we see the list of states that have chosen to play along – those
champions of human rights:
Sudan, Cuba, Saudi
Arabia – itself building a massive fence to stop infiltration
from Yemen, we know we were
right to stay away.
We did not want to build this fence.
It's ugly, it's expensive – even though its temporary, and it
causes genuine hardship to many Palestinians which we must take every
measure to ease. That's why we did not build it for over two and half
years of Palestinian violence, why we waited while 935 Israelis were
killed. Until we could wait no longer. Until March 2002, a month in
which 37 terrorist attacks in 31 days murdered 137 people, including
the Passover night massacre. We could wait no longer because the fence
works. Not a single suicide bomber has succeeded in crossing the fence
between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
In those areas of the West Bank
where it has been constructed, the fence has already brought down suicide
attacks by some 30%. We recently caught two suicide bombers on their
way to blow up a High School in the north of Israel, only because of
the fence. The simple truth is that the fence is saving lives.
But it has a humanitarian impact. In the Palestinian
presentation before the Court there were so many factual distortions
that, tragically, they disguised the fact that there is genuine hardship
caused by the fence. And it's our responsibility to do everything we
can to ease this – even if it means creating over 40 agricultural
gates, building underpasses to connect Palestinian areas, running buses
to help the 61 kids who are separated from their schools, replanting
tens of thousands of olive trees, and building new infrastructure for
the Palestinians where this can't be included in the fence, like the
kidney dialysis center we have just built at Mukassat hospital. But
in our concern for the quality of life of the Palestinians, we cannot
forget the right to life of Israelis. The fence, and the hardship it
causes, is reversible. Lives lost to terrorism are not.
The aim of the fence is simply that; to save lives.
In fact it is to slow down the terrorists by up to 15 minutes, to enable
the defence forces to stop them. And a fence along the Green
Line, which runs through villages and valleys with high ground on
either side, would simply not do that. Which is why the fence diverts
at points on both sides of the Green Line.
We're not trying to establish a border. If anything,
it's the Palestinians, who insist the fence be built on the 1967 line
who are trying to do that. We know that the future border between us
has to be negotiated. That's what it says in all our agreements, in
United Nations resolutions 242
and 338, and in the Road
Map. The Palestinians can't have it both ways. They can't not fight
terrorism and insist that we accept their maximalist position on the
At this very moment we know that terrorists are putting
together the next suicide bomber belt aimed at the heart of one of our
cities, at a restaurant, a mall, a bus. With a Palestinian leadership
doing nothing to stop them, the fence is the only thing standing between
those terrorists and our families. But there is a better way. For the
Palestinians to do what they've promised to do again and again. Not
to send questions to the Court that ignore their obligations, but to
fulfil them. But nowhere in the three hours of Palestinian statements
before the Court today, was there any mention of any Palestinian responsibility.
Not a mention of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements in which they undertook
to arrest terrorists, stop incitement, collect illegal weapons. Not
a whisper about the first line of the first phase of the Road Map, which
requires them to take immediate action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.
Because ultimately, Court or no Court, no leadership
can evade responsibility. And as soon as there is a Palestinian leadership
which accepts its responsibility, which talks to its own people about
the need for painful concessions, as every Israeli leader for the past
decade has done, a leadership like President Sadat of Egypt, like King
Hussein of Jordan, then we will be able to stop building fences and
start building bridges.