(AP) UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution demanding that Israel comply with a world court decision and tear down the barrier it is building to seal off the West Bank.
Tuesday’s vote was 150 in favor, 6 opposed including the United States, and 10 abstentions.
The 191-member world body voted after lengthy negotiations between the Arab League and the European Union which resulted in a revised text that was accepted by both groups.
The assembly’s vote, like the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, is not legally binding, but both have symbolic value as international statements of support for the barrier’s destruction.
Nonetheless, the Palestinian U.N. observer, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said the court’s opinion and the resolution could be “the most important” since the General Assembly’s 1947 partition of Palestine to allow the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.
The court, as well as the resolution, demand that the barrier be dismantled and reparations be paid to Palestinians harmed by its construction.
“It’s time now, we believe, for implementation, for compliance, and at a later stage for additional measures,” Al-Kidwa said, praising “the magnificent results that were achieved today in support of international law and in support of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.”
Al-Kidwa said last week it is not too early to start thinking about sanctions to end Israel’s settlement activities because of Israel’s “negative response” to the July 9 court decision.
Israel has refused to recognize the world court ruling, saying it has no authority to deal with the issue and has ordered construction of the barrier to go on.
The Israeli Supreme Court, however, has ordered the army to change the route of the barrier in a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch near Jerusalem, saying it was causing too much hardship on the local Palestinian population.
Expressing thanks “that the fate of Israel” is not decided by the General Assembly, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman called the resolution “one-sided and totally counterproductive” and said construction of the barrier will continue in compliance with international law as decided by Israel’s Supreme Court.
“It is simply outrageous to respond with such vigor to a measure that saves lives and responds with such casual indifference and apathy to the ongoing campaign of Palestinian terrorism that takes lives. This is not justice but a perversion of justice,” he said.
U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham called the resolution “unbalanced” and said it “politicizes” the court’s opinion and “diverts attention” from a political settlement which must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The United States remains convinced that the focus must remain on President Bush’s vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security, and on the road map as the appropriate means to realize this vision,” he said.
But Gillerman predicted the resolution will “complicate implementation of the road map.”
The General Assembly asked the world court in December for an opinion on the legality of the barrier — a 425-mile-long ( complex of high concrete walls, razor-wire fences, trenches and watch towers. Much of the completed portion is close to Israel’s pre-1967 border, but some of it dips into the West Bank.
The Palestinians say the current route of the wall amounts to a land grab because parts of the barrier are being built on West Bank land that Israel conquered in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says the fence is needed to keep out suicide bombers.