Interior Minister Otto Schily said the controversial West Bank barrier is effective because it has led to a drop in attacks on Israel. He also rejected comparisons between the Israeli fence and the Berlin Wall.
It's a fence, not a wall, Schily said
"Those who draw comparisons with the Berlin Wall are wrong, because it does not shut people in and deprive them of their freedom," Schily told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday. "Its purpose is to protect Israel from terrorists."
German Interior Minister Otto Schily
Schily, who is currently in Israel for an international conference on terrorism, said the security barrier was the result of decades of failed efforts to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from crossing the border and attacking Israel.
"All the efforts undertaken over many years, even decades, have unfortunately failed to bear fruit," he said. "So it is understandable that Israel should try to erect a protective barrier, which furthermore has shown it works, and I think that the criticism is far from the reality."
In the radio interview, Schily also insisted the security barrier should be referred to as a "fence" and not a "wall," as it is often called in Germany.
Palestinians demand explanations
On Tuesday, Palestinian authorities demanded a thorough explanation for Schily's statements. Cabinet Minister Sajeb Erekat said the German minister's statements were "very strange and unusual," and not in keeping with the official German position on the barrier.
A Palestinian couple walks through the fence Israel built to separate Israel and the Palestinian territories, near the city of Qalqilya.
Only recently German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had criticized the barrier as "barely understandable" from a security point of view. But a spokesman for the German foreign ministry on Tuesday insisted there was no contradiction between the two ministers' remarks. He said that while the German government recognizes that every state has the right to defend its borders, it is still concerned over the route of the barrier, which at times cuts deep into Palestinian territory.
Palestinians say that the erection of concrete blocks, barbed wire, watchtowers and trenches juts into their land and is an attempt by Israel to reduce the size of a future Palestinian state. The International Court of Justice ruled in July that the parts of the barrier built within the West Bank are illegal and should be torn down.
Israel is due to present a revised route of the barrier this week after the Israeli supreme court ruled in a test case that the fundamental rights of tens of thousands of Palestinians living near Jerusalem had been violated.
Islamic terror world's greatest threat
Schliy's "understanding" for Israel's need to protect itself against Palestinian attacks follows earlier statements referring to Islamic terror as the "greatest threat to the civilized world."
A Palestinian woman and her son wait to be checked at an Israeli checkpoint at the entrance of the Palestinian West Bank town of Tulkarem.
At a four-day anti-terror conference held to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the German interior minister said Germany had a special commitment to ensuring Israel's security because of the Holocaust."This responsibility to Israel includes the obligation to support Israel in its fight against terror, and in this context we must be aware that no nation suffered under the scourge of terrorism like Israel," he said on Saturday.