Tuesday, September 21, 2004

German Minister Justifies Israeli Barrier

Interior Minister Otto Schily said the controversial West Bank barrier is effective because it has led to a drop in attacks on Israel. He also rejected comparisons between the Israeli fence and the Berlin Wall.

'Those who draw comparisons with the Berlin Wall are wrong, because it does not shut people in and deprive them of their freedom,' Schily told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday. 'Its purpose is to protect Israel from terrorists.'

German Interior Minister Otto Schily
Schily, who is currently in Israel for an international conference on terrorism, said the security barrier was the result of decades of failed efforts to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from crossing the border and attacking Israel.

'All the efforts undertaken over many years, even decades, have unfortunately failed to bear fruit,' he said. 'So it is understandable that Israel should try to erect a protective barrier, which furthermore has shown it works, and I think that the criticism is far from the reality.'

In the radio interview, Schily also insisted the security barrier should be referred to as a 'fence' and not a 'wall,' as it is often called in Germany.

Palestinians demand explanations

On Tuesday, Palestinian authorities demanded a thorough explanation for Schily's statements. Cabinet Minister Sajeb Erekat said the German minister's statements were 'very strange and unusual,' and not in keeping with the official German position on the barrier.

A Palestinian couple walks through the fence Israel built to separate Israel and the Palestinian territories, near the city of Qalqilya.
Only recently German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had criticized the barrier as 'barely understandable' from a security point of view. But a spokesman for the German foreign ministry on Tuesday insisted there was no contradiction between the two ministers' remarks. He said that while the German government recognizes that every state has the right to defend its borders, it is still concerned over the route of the barrier, which at times cuts deep into Palestinian territory."