UN to create fence complaints registry

Special body will track Palestinian damage claims caused by security fence.

fence awesome 298.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
fence awesome 298.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Friday to establish an office to register Palestinian claims for damage stemming from the construction of the security barrier. Israel and the United States strongly opposed the creation of the new office, which will be based in Vienna, but the world body approved the resolution by a vote of 162-7, with seven abstentions. Those who voted against the resolution, along with Israel and the US, were Australia, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau; while those who abstained were Cameroon, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Uganda. The General Assembly resolution said the register was being established to comply with an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in July 2004 that found the barrier illegal. The court said, "Israel is under an obligation to make reparations for all damage caused by the construction." A Foreign Ministry representative said Israel had set up its own mechanism - under the supervision of the High Court of Justice - for paying compensation. According to the representative, about 140 claims have been filed, 96 of which have been settled, and NIS 7 million has already been paid. The resolution authorizes the new office - comprising a three-member board, an executive director and a small staff - to record damage from the barrier's construction. At this stage, it rules out any evaluation or assessment of the losses. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, said during the debate prior to the vote that the mechanism was not a "register of damage" but a "register that does damage." "There would be no need for a security fence" were it not for Palestinian violence, he said. Gillerman said the barrier - a complex of fences, walls, trenches, barbed wire and electronic devices that is expected to run about 680 km. when completed - stopped terrorists. He said the clearest proof that it was not a border but a structure to protect citizens was that its route has been altered following several High Court rulings. Gillerman said that while the fence was reversible, the loss of human life to terror was not. Gillerman said the proposed register damaged the General Assembly's credibility by once again exploiting the "automatic majority vote" against Israel. "The real barrier between Israelis and Palestinians is not the security fence, but the terrorism that makes it necessary," Gillerman said. "Were it not for that terrorism, a viable two-state solution would have emerged long ago." Gillerman criticized the Palestinians for going to the UN "to put another political mechanism in place that does not and will not bring relief to your people." The United States made the same point and strongly objected to the estimated cost of more than $2 million a year for the register, with no provision for its mandate to be reviewed or concluded. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, said establishing the register was just one step toward implementing the court's ruling. Israel rejected the court's advisory opinion. "We are still insisting, and the international community is insisting, that the wall is illegal and has to be dismantled and that process has to be reversed," Mansour said. He said as construction of the barrier continued, more Palestinian land is confiscated and homes, agricultural fields and crops destroyed. He said the barrier had displaced thousands of Palestinians, obstructed freedom of movement and prevented access to jobs, health care, education, worship and an adequate standard of living. "The accurate and thorough documentation of the damage caused is a central prerequisite for the genuine granting of reparations, including both restitution and compensation," Mansour said. Mansour said the register must remain in existence "until the construction of the wall is totally ceased, the wall is dismantled and reparations are properly made by Israel."