- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

JERUSALEM — Israel said yesterday it would not stop building a security barrier in the West Bank despite a U.N. resolution demanding the fence be torn down.

“The fence will continue to be built,” said Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who dismissed the U.N. General Assembly as hostile to the Jewish state.

Israel says the wall is needed to keep suicide bombers out of the country. The Palestinians say Israel is using the barrier as a pretext to take Palestinian land.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israel’s police minister toured a disputed holy site — the first visit by a senior Israeli official since Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted there three years ago. Muslim administrators of the site called the visit a provocation, though Police Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said it was coordinated with them. The visit ended without incident.

The site is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, an area of destroyed ancient temples. Muslims call the compound the Harem as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, where the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosques are located.

Mr. Hanegbi went to the site to survey security arrangements in preparation for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins next week, his office said.

The General Assembly’s call to dismantle the West Bank barrier was passed late Tuesday after more than six hours of negotiations. The compromise resolution wasn’t legally binding but was seen as a gauge of world opinion. Palestinians praised the measure, which passed with 144 countries in favor and four opposed, including the United States. There were 12 abstentions.

Mr. Olmert, speaking to Israel radio yesterday, dismissed the resolution as an example of the world’s hostility toward Israel.

“Everything connected to Israel gets an automatic majority,” he said.

Asked if Israel would stop building the barrier, Mr. Olmert laughed and said, “You have a sense of humor.”

“We have to worry about Israel’s security and it is clear that we will not act according to the instructions of a hostile, automatic majority … who has always acted against Israel,” he said.

“If the whole world is on one side, and America and Israel on the other side, I’m proud to be on the American side,” he added.

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