"These steps would begin to address the Palestinian concerns about the viability of the future Palestinian state and assist in building support among the Palestinian people for the peace process," U.N. Undersecretary-General Kieran Prendergast said in a briefing to the U.N. Security Council.
His remarks came hours before an expected vote in the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly on two Palestinian resolutions opposing the Israeli barrier -- a fence with electronic sensors or in spots a concrete wall up to 25 feet high that is flanked by trenches, barbed wire and a patrol road.
One of the texts, identical to a resolution vetoed by the United States last week in the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, would declare the barrier a violation of international law that "must be ceased and reversed."
The second would seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on whether Israel was legally obligated to dismantle the barrier. The court, a branch of the United Nations (news - web sites), judges disputes between countries and is based in the Netherlands.
The assembly had been expected to vote around 3 p.m. but Arab governments requested a short delay to explore whether they could broaden support for the measures by adopting changes suggested by some European Union
Arab nations, at the urging of Palestinian U.N. envoy Nasser al-Kidwa, took the resolutions to an emergency session of the General Assembly after last week's U.S. veto.
The Palestinians enjoy strong support in the assembly and the United States, Israel's closest ally, has no veto there.
MILITARILY CLOSED AREA
Israel insists it is building the second phase of the barrier to keep out militants and prevent suicide bombings.
But the Palestinians argue that building it deep into West Bank territory would constitute a land grab aimed at heading off any possibility of an eventual Palestinian state.
Israeli defense forces this month declared the lands between the wall and Israel's 1967 border with the West Bank to be militarily closed areas, which anyone other than an Israeli must have a permit to enter.
Prendergast said the declaration applied to 25,000 acres, "where as many as 12,000 Palestinians would be left in enclaves."
"This order marks an unacceptable deepening of restrictions against the Palestinians caught between the barrier and the Green Line (1967 border)," he told the Security Council.
During General Assembly debate on Monday, al-Kidwa said the U.S. veto meant the barrier's construction would continue unless the assembly and U.N. court intervened.
"It is either the wall or peace, for it is impossible to have both," he said.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham contended that Israeli-Palestinian disputes should be resolved only through negotiations between the parties, and Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman accused the Palestinians of pursuing their resolutions only to evade their obligation to end terror attacks on Israel
And according to www.Btselem.org :
In early September, Israel began the groundwork for construction of another section of the separation barrier in the Jerusalem area. Construction of two other sections of the Jerusalem Envelope, north and south of the city, comprising a total of some twenty kilometers, was recently completed (except for a small section adjacent to Rachel's Tomb, in Bethlehem).
The barrier's new route, which was approved by the Political-Security Cabinet on 20 August 2003, has not yet been made public. The relevant land requisition orders issued by the IDF and the Ministry of Defense indicate that a fifteen-kilometer section of the barrier will be built from the eastern edge of Beit Sahur, in the south, to the eastern edge of al-Izariya, in the north. Two-thirds of the barrier will run along the eastern border of Jerusalem. The rest of the route will run east of the city and weave through al-Izariya to the Ma'ale Adumim settlement.
Following the Six Day War, Israel annexed extensive areas of land into the jurisdictional area of Jerusalem. A number of Palestinian towns ("suburbs") are situated east of the new border: al-Izariya (15,900 residents), Abu Dis (11,000), Sawahrah a-Sharqiya (4,700), a-Sheikh S'ad (2,200), and parts of Tsur Baher (700), comprising a total of 34,500 residents. West of the border (in areas annexed into the city) lie Palestinian communities containing 128,000 residents, more than one-half of Jerusalem's Palestinian population: a-Tur (20,000), Sheikh Jarakh (2,700), Wadi Joz (7,100), the city center and adjacent areas (6,800), the Old City and adjacent areas (31,200), Silwan (9,600), Abu-Tur (13,600), Ras al-'Amud (12,500), Jabal Mukhaber (13,500), Tsur Baher and Umm Tuba (11,200).
Until recently, Jerusalem's municipal borders did not significantly affect the daily lives of residents on both sides.
Over the years, Palestinian building expanded on both sides, creating a contiguous urban bloc.
• Many residents moved from East Jerusalem to the (West Bank) suburbs because they were not allowed to build in East Jerusalem. However, they continued to hold Israeli ID cards.
• Many children living in the suburbs go to schools in East Jerusalem and many college students from East Jerusalem study at Al-Quds University, which is located in Abu Dis.
• A large percentage of residents of the suburbs receive medical services in al-Moqassad Hospital and Augusta Victoria Hospital, both located in East Jerusalem.
Many residents of the suburbs work in East Jerusalem. Also, merchants and businesspeople from the suburbs make a living from customers who come from East Jerusalem.
Residents maintain close family and social ties with residents on the other side of the municipality's border.
Establishment of the barrier's route along the eastern border of Jerusalem completely ignores this reality. In the past few months, Israel has put up physical obstructions along the municipal seam line. These roadblocks restrict the freedom of movement of residents on both sides. The most conspicuous obstruction stands two meters high and runs along a street between Abu Dis and Ras al-'Amud. However, these physical obstructions do not prevent most of the residents from crossing the border in either direction, either by climbing over or going around them by foot.
The planned separation barrier is composed, for the most part, of an electronic fence, barbed-wire fences, and trenches. The width of the barrier ranges from sixty to one hundred meters. In a small number of areas, including the current wall in Abu Dis, the barrier will be composed of a wall six to eight meters high. Unlike the current obstructions, the barrier will completely seal the municipal seam line and destroy the existing fabric of life.
To date, the Ministry of Defense has not clarified whether it intends to place crossing points along the barrier to enable Palestinians to pass.However, even if it does, the barrier will restrict the residents' movement, and even prevent it altogether in many cases, because crossing will be contingent on obtaining movement permits. In the past, Israel has arbitrarily denied, time after time, the requests of many Palestinians to obtain movement permits in the West Bank. In any event, these permits become invalid whenever Israel imposes a comprehensive curfew on the Occupied Territories.
American officials: > President George W. Bush COMMENTS:
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Secretary of State Colin L. Powell: phone: (202) 647-7098 email
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Irwin Arieff and BTselem