The Palestinians won a victory against Israel at the UN in New York on Tuesday when the body voted against the so-called "West Bank Barrier. But Israel had angry words for its neighbors and Europe a day later.
The UN says 'take it down'
Following the passage of a non-binding United Nations resolution supporting a recent International Court of Justice decision that the so-called "West Bank Barrier" being erected by Israel is illegal, the Israelis on Wednesday criticized the European Union for its instrumental role in drafting the resolution.
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, told an Israeli radio broadcaster Wednesday that the EU had supported a "terribly one-sided" resolution and had acted "disgracefully."
He added that he was disappointed the EU member states didn't abstain from voting on the resolution. In particular, Gillerman expressed anger that "France behaved especially disgracefully by working on behalf of its Palestinian friends to convince other European states to accept the resolution." He added that the votes raised doubts about a future role for Europe in the Middle East peace process.
France did not respond directly to Israel's dismay but only welcomed the vote in its official statement. "We are pleased with the adoption of this resolution, which illustrates the effectiveness of the negotiations process among the Europeans," French foreign ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous told reporters.
The non-binding resolution was passed on Tuesday in the General Assembly by a vote of 150-6, with 10 countries abstaining. The debate followed up a July 9 ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague stating that the barrier, which is still under construction, is illegal because it cuts into West Bank land. It is intended to shield settlements built by Israel on territory it seized in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel, the United States and Australia were among the handful of countries voting to block the resolution. However, the 25 members of the European Union voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.
"The European Union acknowledges the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall," said The Netherlands' ambassador to the UN, Dirk Jan van der Berg, who spoke on behalf of the EU. "In the spirit of consensus we voted in favor of the resolution that's just been adopted."
The EU agreed to support the Palestinian-drafted measure only after its Arab sponsors accepted a series of EU modifications over days of intense negotiations. They included changing the wording in the resolution from "accepting" the court's decision to "acknowledging" it. The revised resolution also condemned all acts of terrorism and urged both Israel and the Palestinians to meet their obligations under the road map to peace set out by the quarter of Middle East mediators -- the United States, EU, UN and Russia.
For Germany, support for resolutions critical of Israel has been rare. The government generally abstains from votes on resolutions dealing with Israel, but there have been exceptions. The recent vote was just that. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the German government said Berlin supported Tuesday's resolutions because the changes in the draft had given it "balance."
A 'historic development'
The Palestinian representative at the UN hailed the decision as an historic development whilst Israel expressed anger against the move and the US said it would undermine the American-backed "Road Map" for peace in the Middle East.
"Israel says the barrier which is in fact part fence and part reinforced concrete wall, in places reaching a height of 8 meters is a necessary measure for national security principally to keep out suicide bombers," said Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer at the UN. "And they say it has cut Palestinian terror attacks by 90 percent. Israel has strenuously rejected accusations that sections built on West Bank territory amount to a land grab."
Israel: we'll keep building
Israeli Ambassador Gillerman angrily responded after the vote, calling the decision "outrageous." The government has since said it will continue to build the barrier.
"The resolution demands that Israel comply with the World Court's findings that it is legally obliged to dismantle the barrier and pay reparations for damages caused during construction," said Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN.
Meanwhile, US Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham said the resolution was "unbalanced" and "harmful" to the Middle East peace process, which he said should center on the American-backed "road map" peace plan.
The Palestinians will now seek a resolution in the Security Council of the UN. That vote would be legally binding, but the US will almost certainly use its veto power to block that resolution.