Last week we saw it all in action once again as the UN found it impossible to condemn Hezbollah – Hezbollah! One of the world’s most violent and vicious terrorist organizations – despite the ample evidence provided by Israel of attack tunnels leading from Lebanese territory into Israel itself, and despite Israel’s asking for help from the UN in destroying the tunnels on Lebanese territory. From the ToI link above:
The United Nations failed to take action during a special Security Council session Wednesday against cross-border attack tunnels that Israel says were dug by Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.
Ahead of the meeting, Israel had urged the council to condemn the Iran-backed Hezbollah and designate it a terrorist organization.
Though the council took no action on the Israeli request, several members sided with Israel and expressed concerns over Hezbollah’s violation of a UN Security Council resolution that ended a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.
Israel has previously urged the UN’s most powerful body to condemn Hezbollah, but has never succeeded because of divisions in the council, and there was no move Wednesday to circulate a draft resolution on the tunnels. A key reason for the lack of council action is that some members would insist that alleged Israeli violations of the 2006 resolution also be included in a resolution.
Here is the IDF spokesman talking about the tunnels, and PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s press conference before the UN debate:
Hillel Neuer, the remarkable head of UN Watch, posed an awkward but obviously rhetorical question to the UN:
Vivian Bercovici, the former Canadian Ambassador to Israel, took the UN’s peacekeeping force UNIFIL to task for looking away from Hezbollah’s aggression:
Since August 2006, UNIFIL has been mandated, pursuant to UNSC Resolution 1701, to ensure that all militia forces are kept behind the Litani River in south Lebanon, which flows four kilometres north of the border with Israel at its closest point. In other words, 1701 intends for a reasonable buffer to be maintained separating Hezbollah and IDF forces.
The Lebanese villages of Kafr Kila and Ramya are a literal stone’s throw from the Israeli border. A small, ordinary structure in Kafr Kila, said to be a “cement block factory” turned out to be anything but. There was significant and unusual activity for an agricultural village of 10,000.
With airborne devices, the IDF noticed an awful lot of heavy truck traffic going to and from the little factory. They all arrived empty and left loaded with dirt. Israel knew what it was looking at — the site of a major tunnelling operation.
All this busy work seems to have gone unnoticed by the approximately 10,500 UNIFIL soldiers working in the area. To suggest that this strains credulity is putting it mildly. What it also clearly does is raise the issue of the neutrality of the UN force.
This particular tunnel had reached 600 meters from Kafr Kila, burrowing very close to the northernmost Israeli town of Metulla. A beautiful village where 2,000 Israelis reside, Metulla is perched at the tip of a narrow jut of land, “the finger,” it is sometimes called, and surrounded on three sides by Lebanon. (It is also home to the only indoor regulation-size hockey arena in Israel, named Canada Centre.)
Israel’s northern reaches have experienced horrific incidents too often. Among the more surreal were two brutal terrorist operations that infiltrated Israel through the Lebanese border and targeted civilians: in 1974, terrorists from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine took hostage more than 115 schoolchildren and murdered 25; and in 1980, when Kibbutz Misgav Am was attacked by commandos from a radical splinter group under the Palestine Liberation Organization umbrella, who took hostage infants and babies with their caregivers, murdering two. An IDF soldier died in their ultimate rescue.
The 2018 version of Misgav Am and Ma’alot is far more sophisticated, engineered and financed by Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. Apparently, the plan was to have hundreds of fighters emerge from numerous tunnels (to date three have been exposed but the IDF states that there are more), ambush and encircle Metulla and distract IDF attention and response from the regular Hizballah forces that would then, according to Nasrallah, surge the border and conquer northern Israel.
Operating within Israeli borders, the IDF has neutralized tunnels exposed thus far with explosives, but clearly intends further action. Residents in the villages hosting Hezbollah operatives have received repeated warnings from the IDF since Sunday urging them evacuate their homes, clearly signalling an imminent intention to destroy the structures used as bases for tunnel construction.
In his meeting with Maj. Gen. Del Col, IDF Chief Eisenkot made it very clear that Israel considers the tunnels to be a blatant violation of UN Resolution 1701. Based on official statements, UNIFIL’s response seems to have been a flurry of meetings with Lebanese and other officials. What UNIFIL has yet to do is explain, at all, how such significant Hezbollah military activity could continue, presumably for years, unnoticed, right under more than 10,500 noses.
Incredibly, UNIFIL seems to be questioning the obvious — whether Hezbollah is responsible for the tunnels. Following a meeting yesterday with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, Maj. Gen. Del Col issued a statement regarding the seriousness of the tunnel situation, but tempering it with a peculiar warning: “At the same time rumours and speculations should be avoided.” Presumably, this somewhat cryptic admonishment invokes the Israeli claim that Hezbollah operatives dug the tunnels.
For the UN, it would appear, Hezbollah’s culpability is anything but certain. It’s an absurdist denial and, regrettably, exactly why Hezbollah has become so entrenched in south Lebanon in spite of Resolution 1701.
This is no whodunnit. It will be interesting to see what alternate theory of reality UNIFIL suggests as to who, other than Hezbollah, might have the resources, motivation and tenacity to burrow through hard rock from Lebanon into Israel.
UNIFIL, far from being a neutral player and peacekeeper between Israel and Lebanon/Hezbollah, has shown itself to be at best cowardly and acquiescent towards the terrorists and at worst an active party to the terrorists’ activities.
The blogger “Daled Amos” at the Elder of Ziyon provides us with a detailed description of UNIFIL’s mandate, saying that UNIFIL has forgotten its mandate:
So, according to Tenenti:
o UNIFIL’s job is limited to monitoring;
UNIFIL has no mandate to disarm Hezbollah;
UNIFIL is not allowed to search private property
That was on September 3.Three weeks later, Pellegrini gave an exclusive interview to The Jerusalem Post:
In his first interview to an Israeli paper since the war in Lebanon, Pellegrini revealed that last week a Syrian weapons convoy on its way to Hizbullah was intercepted by the Lebanese army near the Lebanese-Syrian border. While the new rules of engagement set by the UN allowed the new UNIFIL force to open fire in order to implement resolution 1701, Pellegrini said he would not automatically order his troops to open fire on Hizbullah guerrillas if they werespotted on their way to the Blue Line to attack Israel. The job of the new multinational force, he said, was to assist the Lebanese army and not to disarm or engage Hizbullah or even to prevent its attacks.
Pellegrini’s admission that UNIFIL is allowed to use force to implement Resolution 1701 contradicts Tenenti’s claim that UNIFIL’s role is just to monitor. That Pellegrini goes on to turn around and then claim that their role is to assist the Lebanese army and not to disarm, engage or prevent attacks is puzzling.It also contradicts the text of Resolution 1701, which:
authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its
forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence;
Again, this assigns to UNIFIL more than just a monitoring role.Now, what about a mandate to disarm Hezbollah?Back to the text of Resolution 1701, which:
Requests the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament…
Again, instead of maintaining just a monitoring mode, UNIFIL does have a mandate to search homes when there is evidence of violations. More than that, the text clearly states that when the illegal presence of weapons is detected, UNIFIL not only has the authority to search but also to act “with all means available” — meaning that it can disarm.There is, in fact, a documented case of UNIFIL doing a search of private homes in 2010, using sniffer dogs and resulting in villagers retaliating by grabbing the weapons of a UNIFIL patrol, throwing stones at them and blocking the road.In this case, it was UNIFIL that was disarmed.The bottom line is that clearly, the role of UNIFIL was not intended to be as
passive as Tenenti claims, limited to monitoring.
o UNIFIL is allowed to use force
o The issue of disarming Hezbollah is a hot potato everyone is trying to avoid, but there is no clear indication that UNIFIL cannot disarm Hezbollah in specific circumstances “to prevent hostile activities”
o UNIFIL is allowed to do searches when there is evidence of a violation
The fact that Hezbollah was able to dig multiple tunnels into Israel is just one more reminder of UNIFIL’s failure to do its job.
UNIFIL not only fails to do its job, as detailed above, but Evelyn Gordon argues that it interferes in the political domain as UNIFIL deters the EU from banning Hezbollah:
It’s no secret that UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, has never done the job it’s supposedly there to do. But this week, we learned that UNIFIL isn’t merely useless; it’s counterproductive. By the very fact of its existence, the organization deters the European Union from listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization—something which, unlike UNIFIL, would genuinely impede Hezbollah’s operations.
This dirty little secret came out after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Hezbollah “Islamic terrorists” during a visit to Israel on Tuesday. The Italian Defense Ministry promptly issued a press statement blasting Salvini for “embarrassing” Rome by calling a spade a spade. “These statements obviously put in a very difficult position our men who are deployed on that southern border,” the statement warned, referring to the Italian contingent of UNIFIL deployed along Lebanon’s border with Israel.
It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that if Italy’s Defense Ministry fears repercussions to its troops from a single minister daring to call Hezbollah “terrorists,” it would be terrified of the consequences should the EU ever formally declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Thus, Italy’s significant involvement in UNIFIL—it currently contributes over 10 percent of UNIFIL’s manpower, including its commanding officer—constitutes a major deterrent to consenting to such a step.
It’s no coincidence that the major contributors to UNIFIL also oppose listing Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The only EU country that does blacklist the entire organization is Holland, which has exactly one soldier in UNIFIL.
The EU and its other member states blacklist only the military wing, not the political wing. And that’s fine by Hezbollah because, as the organization itself admits, any distinction between its political and military wings is purely fictitious. Thus as long as the political wing is legal, Hezbollah can still fundraise and recruit freely in Europe.
To be fair, expecting UNIFIL to stop Hezbollah was never realistic. As a senior Israeli official acknowledged this week, few countries would be willing to contribute troops to a mission that actually involved fighting Hezbollah.
What’s inexcusable, however, is that UNIFIL has never even reported any of Hezbollah’s activities to mobilize international action against the organization. On the contrary, whenever Israel complains, UNIFIL insists it has seen no sign of hostile activity.
This might even be true because UNIFIL has learned not to look anywhere Hezbollah doesn’t want it to look. Back in 2010, after a French unit made the mistake of actually trying to do its job by conducting searches and using sniffer dogs, Lebanese “civilians” clashed with UNIFIL troops, seized their weapons and threw stones at them until UNIFIL’s commander forbade such searches. Today, the UN confines itself to meaningless statements about how “allegations of illegal arms transfers … warrant serious concern” and would violate Resolution 1701, but “the United Nations is not in a position to substantiate them independently.”
And even when turning a blind eye becomes impossible—like when Israel took UNIFIL officers on a guided tour of the cross-border tunnels—the organization is careful never to blame Hezbollah. As the blogger Elder of Ziyon reported last week, UNIFIL’s press statement about the tunnels didn’t accuse anyone of responsibility; it never mentioned Hezbollah at all. In fact, the post continued, “the UNIFIL website has not mentioned the word ‘Hezbollah’ or ‘Hizbollah’ since the 2006 war!
In contrast, UNIFIL has no problem making accusations against Israel. The same November report that couldn’t “substantiate” Hezbollah’s arms transfers declared that UNIFIL had recorded 550 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace and demanded their “immediate cessation.”
The conclusions from all the above are obvious:
So the international community is spending $500 million a year on a “peacekeeping” force that hasn’t stopped Hezbollah’s military buildup … To call this a waste of money is a colossal understatement. And it’s not likely to change, given that efforts to reform UNIFIL have repeatedly failed.
The better solution would be to dissolve UNIFIL, put those $500 million to some better use, and focus instead on getting the EU to blacklist Hezbollah. Admittedly, that might not happen even if UNIFIL disappears. But it definitely won’t happen as long as UNIFIL exists.
But I’m not holding my breath waiting for the world to come to its senses.