Final plans for a new security fence route northwest of Jerusalem are expected in two weeks, Defense Ministry sources reported yesterday. A senior defense source said that the new route of the fence will be closer to the homes of the Jewish towns, such as Mevasseret Zion and Har Adar, falling within the parameters of the High Court of Justice rulings on the matter.
The same source said that the section of the fence in question will be completed by the end of the year. Director General of the Defense Ministry, Amos Yaron, said that the court's decision may affect the route of the fence in other parts of the West Bank, including Ariel, Gush Ezyon, and south Hebron Mountain. However, he said while there may be a need to rethink the route near settlements, solutions are possible.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon disagreed with Yaron and said that the ruling of the High Court does not need to affect the placing of the fence in the area of Ariel because there are few Palestinians living there.
In anticipation of the ruling at the International Court of Justice in the Hague on the subject of the security fence in the West Bank, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom asked U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Friday to use American influence to prevent the decision from being brought before the Security Council for a resolution on the matter.
In a meeting held in Washington, Shalom said Israel is aware the Palestinians are planning a "festival" at the United Nations, an euphemism for capitalizing on the international arena by rallying support against the security fence.
The United States has not guaranteed it would use its veto in the Security Council if the matter is brought to the UN's top body, but the Americans did express opposition to bringing the fence issue before the International Court.
Shalom expressed Israel's concerns that the matter may require American intervention also in the General Assembly, as the Palestinians may seek sanctions against Israel.
"The decision of the High Court of Justice in Israel on the fence proves that we can deal with this on our own," Shalom said after meeting with Rice. He added that the fact that Israel is changing the route of the fence following the court's decision proves Israel's argument that the fence is not fixed.
The Palestinian representative to the UN, Nasser al-Kidwah, is expected to request an emergency session of the General Assembly, which will take place next Monday or Tuesday. However, Kidwah is not likely to ask for a meeting of the Security Council until September because of the absence of many senior diplomats from New York during July and August.
Western diplomats at the United Nations expressed doubts yesterday that the 15-judge panel at the International Court of Justice will result in a unanimous decision. The general impression is that there will be a strong minority opinion expressed by the panel.
The official ruling of the court is expected to be made public on Friday afternoon, and will be delivered to the United Nations Secretariat for presentation to the General Assembly of the world body.
While the diplomats agree that the decision will not be in Israel's favor and the ruling will declare the security fence as being against the law, most are of the opinion that the court will recognize and stress the right of Israel to defend itself.
Two senior American officials in charge of the "Israel file" at the White House are due in Israel on Tuesday to see Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and senior officials in the Palestinian Authority. Diplomatic source describe the one-day visit by assistant national security adviser Steve Hedley, and the official in charge of the Middle East at the National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, as "maintenance."
Next week, Tom Ridge, the U.S. Homeland Security chief, will visit Israel for the first time since he was appointed after 9/11. His visit is seen as political in nature to portray Republican support for Israel before the presidential elections in November.
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