The International Court of Justice ruled today that it is against international law for Israel to build its barrier in the West Bank and that it should be dismantled.
The advisory ruling by the World Court, in the Hague, is nonbinding. But it contributes to the debate surrounding construction of the network of fencing and ditches on lands that have been the focus of Middle East peace efforts.
Israel says it is building the barrier as self-defense against attackers, but Palestinians call it an attempt to grab land.
A copy of the ruling, posted on the Web site www.electronicintifada.net before the court began its reading of the decision, said that the construction of the wall is “contrary to international law.”
“Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breach of international law, and under obligation to cease forthwith the construction of the wall being built in the occupied Palestinian territory,” it said.
The Palestinian Authority, in a previous presentation to the court, had argued that the partly built barrier was a violation of international law and an attempt to annex Palestinian land.
“I think this is a historic decision,” said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, today. “I think the message to Palestinians is that they should pursue the path of diplomacy, not violence, and that they don’t stand alone.
“I really hope tonight that Israel will stop building the wall, and come back to the negotiating table,” Mr. Erekat said. “And if they insist on building the wall, they should build it on their border and not in the heart of the West Bank.”
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat called the ruling “a victory for the Palestinian people and for all the free peoples of the world.”