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Security fence off world's agenda – for now

Yasser Arafat's death, a more optimistic air in the region, and Europe's reluctance right now to support anti-Israeli initiatives are responsible for knocking the security fence – at least temporarily – off the UN's agenda.

One senior European diplomatic official in Israel said the EU has made clear to the Palestinians they would not support a Palestinian resolution on the security fence if it were brought to the General Assembly or the Security Council now.

In July the EU "disappointed" Israel by supporting a General Assembly resolution that called on Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice ruling to dismantle the fence, and pay reparations to Palestinians who may have incurred damages as a result of its construction. That resolution passed by a vote of 150-6, with 10 abstentions.

At the time Israel feared the Palestinians would try to bring another resolution slamming Israel for noncompliance to the General Assembly in the fall, and then possibly to the Security Council with a recommendation for sanctions.

In the meantime, however, the issue has fallen off the UN's radar screen.

"Our position," the European diplomat said, "is that a solution for this can be found through political negotiations, and that putting the issue to the UN now would only exacerbate matters between Israel and the Palestinians."

The official said the Israeli High Court of Justice's ruling in the summer that the government must make changes in the barrier that takes into account Palestinian humanitarian needs, and the government's compliance with that ruling, have made the fence less of an issue for the Europeans.

According to a senior Israeli official, the Foreign Ministry believes that in addition to the Europeans, two other factors have also motivated the Palestinians to push the issue to the back burner.

First of all, the official said, the Palestinians – because of Arafat's illness and then his death – have focused their attention elsewhere.

The Palestinian representative to the UN, Nasser al-Kidwa, who was shepherding the issue through the world's body, is Arafat's nephew, and has been preoccupied dealing with his uncle's sickness, death, funeral and then the controversy determining the cause of death. In addition, he has also been dealing with the death of another uncle, Fathi Arafat.

Secondly, the official said, developments on the ground – and the Palestinian request for good-faith measures in the run-up to the Palestinian elections on January 9 – militates against a Palestinian full-court-press on the matter.

"It would look strange that at the same time they are asking us to take steps to facilitate the [Palestinian] election, and at a time when there is the beginning of some kind of dialogue, that in parallel they would wage a campaign against us in the UN," he said. "The two don't go together."

And finally, he added, the Europeans and other countries have indicated to the Palestinians that this is not the right time to raise the issue.

The official warned, however, that this doesn't mean the fence is off the UN agenda, or the agenda of the international community.

"The Palestinians can push a button and bring the issue back onto the UN agenda tomorrow," he said. "It has not died, it's just dormant."

source: Jerusalem Post

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