Monday, August 07, 2006

Israel's Sudden Fondness for UN Resolutions

Listening to Israeli government officials speak recently, I am struck by how many times they reference United Nations Resolutions to justify the war in Lebanon. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, with the typical argument:
All in all, from the standpoint of Israel and the international community, there is international consensus on a series of matters, first of all on who is responsible for the crisis. There is no doubt, and this was also stated in the G8 report, that Hizbullah is responsible. The nature of the threat is also clear - it is a regional threat, related to the Hizbullah - Syria - Iran - Hamas axis. There is consensus that the kidnapped soldiers must be released unconditionally and consensus, which was initiated back in UN Security Council Resolution 1559, only part of which has been fulfilled to date, that Hizbullah must be disbanded and Lebanese sovereignty enforced throughout all of Lebanon.

The Lebanese government's excuse until now has been that it is a weak government. Only the first part of UN Resolution 1559 regarding the removal of foreign armies, namely removing the Syrians from Lebanon, has been fulfilled. The second requirement of the Security Council resolution, which was to dismantle the militias, including Hizbullah, has not been implemented. So, in effect, we are now facing not only a test for Lebanon or a test of Israel - I think this is also a test for the international community.

I believe that the process we created presents the Lebanese government with a challenge and an opportunity - assuming that it has an interest in fulfilling Resolution 1559, although it lacks the ability to do so. The test of the international community is whether its job is to make declarations or whether it can also enforce them. The responsibility, not only from the standpoint of the Israeli government, but also from standpoint of the international community, must rest with the Lebanese government.

The Israeli government is patently correct, Resolution 1559 hasn't fully been implemented. However, when it comes to United Nations Resolutions, Israel isn't exactly in a position to lecture. In fact, Israel's tactic of stressing "international law" only highlights their own transgressions and provides Hezbollah with "legal" justification.

Case in point, United Nations Resolution 425, which demands Israel withdraw from all Lebanese terrority. While Israel finally withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, it maintained its occupation of the 25 square kilometer area of South Lebanon known as Shebaa Farms. Whenever we hear a Hezbollah figure speak, they constantly reference the Shebaa Farms as a justification for resistance. If United Nations resolutions are the mode of argument, it would appear both sides find legitimacy.

Israel is also in violation of many other United Nations Resolutions, most notably 465 and 476 which reference illegal Israeli settlements and occupation of Palestinian land. Despite Sharon's withdraw of some areas, the settlements continue and the state of Palestine remains somewhat occupied. Interesting to note, Hezbollah also cites these violations to legitimize their "struggle". In fact, a quick perusal of United Nations resolutions shows a clear pattern of Israeli transgression and outright defiance. With such a horrible record of respecting international "will", Israel lacks the moral clarity to now demand full implementation of resolutions it deems acceptable. Maybe the way out of this entire mess is an agreement that all United Nations resolutions be implemented. The next time an Israeli official references the international community, I hope someone suggests such a proposal. What's good for the goose....


Steve V said...

The simple fact remains, Hezbollah is so woven into Lebanese culture, any talk of elimination is unrealistic. Hezbollah provides the schooling, the medicine and helps rebuild. Israel has changed their rhetoric, they now advocate weakening Hezbollah, as opposed to the initial talk of destruction- which is a frank admission of Hezbollah's strength.

The PLO was once a "terrorist" organization. Through a careful carrot and stick approach it evolved into an acceptable entity. Depending on how the peace agreement works, Hezbollah may well morph somewhat.

Mark Dowling said...


contrary to your assertion, the UN Security Council and the Secretary General say that UN Res 425 has been fulfilled by Israel.

The only people who say the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese are the Lebanese - every credible map of the region the UN found during the certification process says they are in Syria and part of the Golan Heights occupied territory which is not covered by 425. There was a boundary commission which concluded in 1964 and recommended moving the border so that the farms would be in Lebanon but the Lebanese and Syrian governments did not implement the commission's conclusions.

You are correct to say that in connection with other annexed or occupied territories, Israel is in breach of several UN resolutions.

It is worth noting though that this itself is a point of friction with the Israelis where the UN is concerned, that the UN has had a massive number of resolutions in this conflict in comparison to other areas of conflict in the world which do not have a large bloc of countries consistently using their votes in the General Assembly for getting these passed.

Steve V said...


Point taken, although the Lebanese clearly disagree. I think it might be spliting hairs, because as you acknowledge, this is "Syrian" terrority so it just violates another resolution(or series of them), so it doesn't detract from my point. Your argument is valid, but it just moves the infraction, Israel still hasn't met its obligations.

As for the argument of the UN having an anti-Israel bias, then all the more reason for Israel to refrain from using the UN as a crutch to justify its offensive. You don't get to pick and choose.

Steve V said...


One thing I find curious is "armed by Iran" angle that is used against Hezbollah. From the Arab perspective, I wonder how they view the "armed by the United States" reality? One man's threat is another man's defensive support.

Steve V said...

"The end result of which, for every time Israel responds to an attack, they create more recruits to the very monster they are trying to defeat."

Jeff, in my mind I don't think anyone could dispute the fact that Hezbollah is now more popular than ever, both domestically, and more alarmingly throughout the region.