- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

From combined dispatches

JERUSALEM — Israel’s attorney general, hoping to avoid sanctions, wants Israel to consider applying to Palestinians the Fourth Geneva Convention safeguarding the treatment of occupied people, a spokesman said yesterday.

The idea is another sign of emerging Israeli disquiet about the risk of international sanctions in the wake of a World Court decision in July that declared illegal its West Bank barrier built across Palestinian farmland.

Israel has said previously the Geneva Convention’s clauses on occupation do not apply to it because Jordanian and Egyptian control over the West Bank and Gaza before 1967 was not internationally recognized.

About 3.6 million Palestinians live in the two territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel says it does its best to heed humanitarian standards in Palestinian areas but Palestinians dispute this, pointing to Jewish settlements, roadblocks and other Israeli controls.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz last week urged the right-wing government to reroute its barrier swiftly to minimize the risk of sanctions, and the High Court gave it 30 days to issue a statement on the ramifications of the World Court decision.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said Mr. Mazuz now wanted the government to “deeply consider” the possibility of adopting the 1949 Convention, which forbids abuses of civilians in conflict zones and transferring citizens of an occupying power onto captured territory.

But Israel is seen as unlikely to embrace the convention in the near term as this could be tantamount to recognizing that its Jewish settlement enterprise is illegal.

Israel says the planned 360-mile-long barrier, of which about 125 miles have been built, is intended to stop Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching its cities. Palestinians, who began an uprising in 2000, denounce the project as a precursor to annexing territory, which could thwart their aspirations to a viable state promised by a troubled U.S.-backed peace plan.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, undaunted by growing resistance within the ruling party to a planned pullout from the Gaza Strip, said the army’s blueprint for the withdrawal will be ready next month.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hopes to carry out the Gaza pullout next year, but the plan has sparked an uprising by hard-liners within his Likud party.

Mr. Sharon insists he is going ahead, and Mr. Mofaz, speaking after a visit to an army base in northern Israel, said yesterday that planning for the pullout was progressing.

“The main points of the policy have already been decided,” he said. “We plan to complete our plans in September.”

Mr. Sharon has said Israel will uproot all 21 settlements in Gaza as well as four isolated enclaves in the West Bank. About 8,000 Jewish settlers live in Gaza among 1.3 million Palestinians.

In new violence in Gaza, Israeli soldiers fatally shot a 20-year-old farmer yesterday, medics said. A military source said soldiers opened fire to thwart a bombing near a crossing with Israel.

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