Official UN Statement: UN General Assembly votes to ask ICJ for opinion on Israel’s separation barrier
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Official UN Statement: UN General Assembly votes to ask ICJ for opinion on Israel’s separation barrier

8 December – The United Nations General Assembly, at the resumption of its long-running tenth emergency special session on Palestine, adopted a resolution today asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of a separation barrier between itself and the West Bank.

The recorded vote in the 191-member Assembly was 90 in favour, 8 against (Australia, Ethiopia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 74 abstentions. Nineteen delegations were absent.

Among those abstaining was the Russian Federation, a member of the “Quartet” advocating a Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East. The other three members of the Quartet are the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.

The Assembly also expressed grave concern about the start and ongoing construction of the barrier in and around East Jerusalem — a departure from the 1940s Armistice “Green Line” — disrupting the lives of thousands of civilians and leading to the de facto annexation of large areas of territory.

The tenth emergency session on illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory dates back to 1997, when Israel began construction of a new settlement south of East Jerusalem.

The ICJ, based in The Hague, the Netherlands, and established in 1946, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It has the dual role of settling legal disputes between member states and issuing advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by international organs and agencies.

Arab delegations had called for the vote following the release of a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which said that Israel was not in compliance with the General Assembly’s past demand that it halt construction of the barrier and remove it.

After the vote, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said more than half the Assembly had not voted for the present “biased resolution,” rejecting it in one way or another. Among those voting for and against the measure, a clear distinction existed between tyrannical dictatorships and corrupt regimes on one side and those with enlightened regimes on the other, he said.

Israel regarded the vote as a moral victory for the enlightened, civilized world over the dark forces of tyranny and corruption, he said.

The Observer for Palestine, Nasser al-Kidwa, described the barrier as a 21st century “wall of shame,” which was built on a foundation of killings and human rights violations and which must be removed immediately.

Continued construction of the wall meant the end of the two-state solution to the conflict, as well as the Quartet-backed peace plan, he said. The entire world stood against the building of the “expansionist wall” and countries had been subjected to “immense pressures” not to vote for the resolution, he added.