- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2004

JERUSALEM — A high court order and a rare admonition from its attorney general has increased pressure on Israel to reassess its West Bank security barrier.

Attorney General Meni Mazuz on Thursday warned that the International Court of Justice’s July ruling at The Hague, urging Israel to tear down the barrier, could lead to sanctions against the Jewish state.

Mr. Mazuz’s warning — an unusual acknowledgment that the country could be punished because of its policies toward the Palestinians — coincided with a Supreme Court order giving the government 30 days to produce a statement about how the World Court’s decision would affect the barrier’s construction.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Israel would hold to its decision not to comply with the ruling by The Hague, heeding only the rulings of the Israeli high court.

However, the official said, to head off the possibility of sanctions, “Israel must be ready, from a legal point of view, to provide answers why it is not implementing the Hague decision.”

The serpentine complex of concrete walls, razor wire and trenches has disrupted the lives of thousands of Palestinians, who have been cut off from their lands and prevented from reaching other villages and population centers.

Israel says the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers and other militants from attacking its towns and cities.

A precedent-setting Israeli Supreme Court ruling in June has led the Defense Ministry to reroute parts of the barrier to bring it closer to Israel’s 1967 boundary.

The Israeli high court ordered a 20-mile section of the barrier rerouted, saying it violates Palestinian human rights and international law. That section of the planned 425-mile structure was to jut deep into the West Bank, on lands Palestinians want for a future state.

Mr. Mazuz’s report could force the government to make still more changes.

“We are on solid ground on Jerusalem, but we are on more shaky ground in some rural areas,” said the senior Israeli official.

Since Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast War, Israeli leaders have consistently refused demands from the powerful Jewish settlement movement to annex the territory, fearing both international condemnation and the end of a Jewish majority in the country.

But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to move forward with the construction of the barrier along a route that puts significant swaths of West Bank land on the “Israeli” side raised a firestorm of criticism worldwide that climaxed with the Hague decision.

In his report, Mr. Mazuz said the government should “as quickly as possible have its decisions regarding the barrier’s route … comply with the principles set down by the Supreme Court.”

Under Mr. Sharon’s plan for “unilateral disengagement,” Israel would complete the separation barrier and withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements by the end of 2005.

About one-fourth of the barrier has been built.

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