"This is a dark day for the International Court of Justice and the international legal system," said Ambassador Dan Gillerman in response to the court’s advisory opinion on the question of Israel’s security fence.

(Communicated by the Israel Mission to the UN)

"This is a dark day for the International Court of Justice and the international legal system," Ambassador Dan Gillerman, permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, said Friday, 9 July 2004, in response to the court’s advisory opinion on the question of Israel’s security fence. When the question was initially posed to the court, a result of maneuvers by politically motivated forces, Israel and over 30 leading democracies did not believe that it had the authority to deal with political disputes between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

It is shocking and appalling that in all 60-plus pages of the opinion the court fails to address the essence of the problem and the very reason for building the fence – the indiscriminate, murderous campaign of terrorism that Israelis are facing. Palestinian terrorism has taken the lives of nearly 1,000 Israelis in over 20,000 attacks over the last three and a half years. No other country would act differently in the face of such an evil campaign. According to Ambassador Gillerman, "This fence is the ‘Arafat Fence’ – the fence that Arafat built. The fence will remain as long as Arafat’s terrorism remains." As long as the terrorism continues, Israel will have no choice but to defend its citizens. This is our moral and legal obligation.

Since the fence has been in operation, the number of casualties has decreased dramatically. The fence is reversible, whereas the lives taken by terrorism are not. Moreover, the fence works. It is a temporary, nonviolent security measure and it saves lives. The real barrier between Israelis and Palestinians is not the fence, but the terrorism that made necessary. There can be little credibility to a process that speaks only of Palestinian rights and Israeli responsibilities, as if there were no Israeli rights and no Palestinian responsibilities.

Israel respects the rights of its neighbors, but Israelis and Jews also have rights, primary among them the right to live. Here this right has been totally ignored. This opinion places the victims of terror on trial, instead of the terrorists. Furthermore, in addition to its multitude of other flaws, the opinion consistently claims to be the logical conclusion of law from the facts at hand, but is in reality deduced from the wrong facts.

Israel continues to seek the necessary balance between protecting the lives of its citizens and the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population, in accordance with the rulings of our Supreme Court, which alone has the capacity to fully address all aspects of this matter.

While Israel has begun the bold and courageous initiative of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, this opinion casts doubt on the international community’s ability to be helpful in this process. Any interference is likely to derail us from the road to peace. Nations that really care about peace in our region should not lend credence to this opinion and be diverted from the window of opportunity presented by the disengagement plan.

The only way to resolve the differences between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the dispute over the fence, is through direct negotiations, as stipulated by UN Security Council resolutions and the Road Map. The solutions to the problem lie in Ramallah and Gaza, from where the terrorism is directed, not in The Hague or Manhattan.

Israel calls on the Palestinian side to end its campaign of terrorism and to return to the path of negotiations. Israel calls on the international community not to lend its hand to the ongoing Palestinian attempts to use international forums to avoid fulfilling their own commitment to fight terrorism.