United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently sounded a word of caution on Hezbollah’s continuing violations of Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
According to Guterres, “Hezbollah continues to publically declare that it retains military capabilities” and that “no progress has been made towards the disarmament of armed groups beyond the control of the State, thereby undermining the ability of the government of Lebanon to fully exercise its sovereignty and authority over its territory.”
UN Resolution 1701, which halted the Israeli-Hezbollah war, was crafted by the US and its allies, following negotiations with Israel, all the while claiming to act on behalf of the Lebanese government. It called for Israel to cease its offensive actions but allowed necessary defensive operations to continue for another forty-eight hours, during which time Israel dropped millions of cluster bombs over south Lebanon.
In the opinion of Robert Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, “This was simply a final effort by the US to provide political cover for Israel to attempt to seize some vestige of military victory from the jaws of its defeat. Israel was not censured in any way for using the run-up to the ceasefire to further escalate its military presence in Lebanon, thereby suggesting that the UN is all too often a geopolitical tool for powerful superpowers rather than an instrument for the enforcement of international law.”
By contrast, Hezbollah was required to terminate all military actions. When the Lebanese government rejected the resolution as a capitulation document, then Secretary of State Rice commented that such reactions demonstrated “who is for peace and who isn’t.” Since the document stated that the violence escalated as a result of Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border on July 12, 2006, it implicitly named Hezbollah as the aggressor. No differentiation was made in the scale of violence and no party was named responsible for extensive damage to Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure or the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons throughout the country.
Rather than using diplomacy to obtain the release of its soldiers, a precedent that had already been set, why did Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hastily declare war? According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the war plans were already on the table and the Israelis were simply waiting for a pretext to execute them. Olmert’s pre-ordained plan was to crush Hezbollah and disarm them.
In the end, and contrary to Secretary-General Cuterres’s recent comments, it was not Resolution 1701 that suggested a mechanism for disarming Hezbollah.
Rather, UN Resolution 424, which officially ended the illegal Israeli occupation of South Lebanon in 2000, provided the means. Resolution 424 called for both the full withdrawal of Israel from all Lebanese territory and the disarming of Hezbollah. At issue was the Shebaa Farm, a water-rich area fourteen-square-miles in size, which was seized by Israel during the 1967 war. The Israelis disputed Lebanon’s claim that Shebaa Farms belonged to them and, therefore, refused to withdraw. Hezbollah, certain the territory belonged to Lebanon, maintained that as long as Israel continued to occupy this tiny piece of land, it had the right to keep its arms. Under pressure from the White House, the UN remained mute on the question of Shebaa Farms, refusing for six years to acknowledge Lebanon as its rightful owner.
It was not until July 11, 2007 that then Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon certified the Shebaa Farms as an integral part of Lebanese territory. Ban invited the Israelis to withdraw immediately. Israel, to date, has refused to leave Shebaa Farms. Why? An abundance of water coming mainly from precipitation has allowed the formation of major underground reservoirs. In need of any available water source, Israel officially annexed this parcel of land and will never willingly give it up, certain, as always, that their illegal actions will be protected by Washington. I discuss this at length in Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli -Hezbollah War of 2006.
So, Secretary-General, I urge you to review your UN resolutions. Lebanon’s survival depends on it, for as long as Hezbollah maintains its arms, the Lebanese will have a military deterrent against further Israeli aggression. Secretary-General, you have only to read a recent statement by the Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warning of the possibility of another war with Lebanon “larger than before,” to know the threat is real..
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