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16 July 2004

U.S. Opposes International Court Ruling on Israeli Wall

Danforth says ruling "points away" from political solution

The opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israeli's security fence "points away from a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said July 16.

"The judicial process is not the political process, and the International Court of Justice was not the appropriate forum to resolve this conflict," Danforth said. "The nature of a political solution is balance. The claims of each side must be accommodated or there can be no agreement."

Addressing an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly, the ambassador rejected the assembly's resolution on the issue, saying that the court's opinion is "complex" and, in some places "confusing"; therefore, a rush to pass a resolution "just one week after the court's opinion and after only hours of debate denies us the time for reflection that such a critical subject deserves."

The emergency special session on the question of Palestine was requested by a majority of U.N. member states, the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement. It focused on the advisory opinion issued July 9 by the ICJ stating that Israel's building of a barrier in the West Bank is illegal. The majority opinion of the court said that construction must stop immediately and Israel should make reparations for any damage caused to the Palestinians.

The opinion of the World Court, as well as resolutions of the General Assembly, is non-binding. The assembly is scheduled to vote on its resolution July 19.

Danforth, the chief U.S. envoy to the United Nations, said, "the court itself stressed that the only way forward is through a negotiated solution and emphasized the importance of the Roadmap in this respect. The resolution before us points in the opposite direction."

Following is the text of the ambassador's remarks:

(begin text)

Statement by Ambassador John Danforth, US Representative to the United Nations, on the Situation in the Middle East, to the General Assembly, July 16, 2004

Mr. President,

The resolution before us and the opinion of the International Court of Justice it endorses point away from a political solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict that would embody the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We must reject the resolution.

If there is to be a solution to the tragedy of the Middle East, it must be political, entailing the agreement by both parties to a reasonable compromise. The judicial process is not the political process, and the International Court of Justice was not the appropriate forum to resolve this conflict.

The nature of a political solution is balance. The claims of each side must be accommodated, or there can be no agreement.

The resolution before us is not balanced. It is wholly one-sided. It does not mention the threat terrorists pose to Israel. It follows a long line of one-sided resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, none of which has made any contribution to peace in the Middle East. Last year, the General Assembly adopted more than twenty such resolutions.

The resolution before us is the very opposite of the measures outlined in the Roadmap to peace, endorsed by the UN Security Council.

In implementing the Roadmap, the two parties would achieve progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian and institution-building fields. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

The Court itself stressed that the only way forward is through a negotiated solution, and emphasized the importance of the Roadmap in this respect. The resolution before us points in the opposite direction.

Some members have pointed out that the opinion of the International Court of Justice is complex, and that it requires careful analysis. The rush to pass this resolution, just one week after the Court's opinion and after only hours of debate denies us the time for reflection that such a critical subject deserves.

Paragraph 139 of the Court's opinion, especially, deserves very careful consideration before we vote. For member states that vote to accept the advisory opinion will vote to accept paragraph 139.

Paragraph 139 can be read as giving a very troubling interpretation of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, as a number of judges said. The Court begins the paragraph quoting Article 51 as follows:

"Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security."

The Court then adds this confusing paragraph interpreting Article 51:

"Article 51 of the Charter thus recognizes the existence of an inherent right of self-defense in the case of armed attack by one State against another State. However, Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign State."

So the Court opinion, which this resolution would accept, seems to say that the right of a State to defend itself exists only when it is attacked by another state, and that the right of self-defense does not exist against non-state actors. It does not exist when terrorists hijack planes and fly them into buildings, or bomb train stations, or bomb bus stops, or put poison gas into subways.

I would suggest that if this were the meaning of Article 51, then the United Nations Charter could be irrelevant in a time when the major threats to peace are not from states, but from terrorists.

Mr. President, the resolution before us is one sided, and moves away from the political process that leads to a two-state solution. The resolution adopts a confusing and troubling interpretation of Article 51. The United States will vote against the resolution.

Thank you, Mr. President.

(end text)

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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