EU: “Israel must stop building barrier”

Israel’s Separation Barrier cutting the streets of Abu Dis near Jerusalem (Photo: Melanie Bartels, 2004)

Today, the EU presented its position regarding the hearing at the ICJ. In Strasbourg, Irish Foreign Minister Dick Roche, on behalf of the Council of Ministers, said that Israel must stop building this barrier and he deplored the “regrettably uncompromising” attitude of the Israeli government. The EU’s abstention during the vote at the UN General Assembly did not bring into question the fact that the EU was opposed to the wall, which is a violation of international law.

The EU, however, doubted whether bringing the case before the ICJ would be useful. However, after the fourth meeting of the Association Council on November 18, the European Union issued a statement, saying its wanted Israel to halt the construction of its wall through the West Bank. The EU was particularly concerned by the route marked out for the so-called security fence in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“The envisaged departure of the route from the ‘green line’ could prejudge future negotiations and make the two-State solution physically impossible to implement. It would cause further humanitarian and economic hardship to the Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians west of the fence are being cut off from essential services in the West Bank, Palestinians east of the fence will lose access to land and water resources. In this context the EU is alarmed by the designation of land between the fence and the “green line” as a closed military zone. This is a de-facto change in the legal status of Palestinians living in this area which makes life for them even harder. Hence, the EU calls on Israel to stop and reverse the construction of the so-called security fence inside the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, which is in departure of the armistice line of 1949 and is in contradiction to the relevant provisions of international law.”

In this week’s debate in Strasbourg, Irish MEP John Cushnahan (PPE-DE) said: “the strategy of building this wall is morally wrong, as well as being counter-productive. Like many of Mr Sharon’s other counter-terrorist strategies, this fails to tackle the root causes of terrorism. Palestinian land has been confiscated to build the barrier; thousands of Palestinian farmers and traders are cut off from their land and means of economic survival.”

British MEP Caroline Lucas (Verts/ALE) was highly critical and said: “Those people who say that instead we should be relying on European pressure on Israel should tell me when European pressure alone on Israel has ever yielded any results - it has not. Yet, when there is an international multilateral forum that exists to address this issue, we turn our backs upon it. Palestinians rightly point to the inconsistency of our position of urging them to give up violence, while simultaneously denying them the chance to seek redress through international legal institutions. Moreover, there are compelling humanitarian reasons to act. The Israeli claim that this is something to do with security is completely undermined by the fact that the wall does not follow the 1967 ‘green line’. Instead, as people have said, it cuts deep into Palestinian land.” Calling the wall “intolerable, illegal and immoral” Lucas continued that “by failing to support the ICJ as a forum to consider it, the Council has been reckless and irresponsible.”

Spanish Socialist Emilio Menendez said that the “wall of shame” made the establishment of a Palestinian state “impossible”. He considers the wall as a “smokescreen” which hardly conceals how difficult it is to establish a Palestinian state as long as there are Israeli colonies. British Liberal Democrat Sarah Ludford referred to the context of the shooting and subsequent death of her constituent Tom Hurndall. Luisa Morgantini from Italy showed evidence of the humanitarian impact of the wall on daily life. German MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit supported the procedure begun at the ICJ. He said that the current location of the wall is in fact “annexing territory”. Danish MEP Ulla Sandbaek felt that one should compel Israel’s Prime Minister to comply with UN resolutions by setting an ultimatum as had been done for Saddam Hussein.

Responding to comments made by European parliamentarians, Dick Roche said: “The Irish presidency will strongly hold to the view that the current situation is unacceptable. Members of this House know that I come from a small island where we know something about divides and walls and separation.” More specifically, Roche said that the Union “cannot accept that a fence or wall built on Palestinian land would best serve Israel’s long-term security”, adding that “the appropriation of land in the West Bank or Gaza is illegal, it is contrary to international law and it fuels tension.”

Related Links:

  • BY TOPIC: Israel’s Apartheid Wall
  • Verbatim report of proceedings of European Parliament on the ICJ hearing on the Israeli wall, European Parliament (11 February 2004)