A PEACEKEEPER of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands at a lookout point in the village of Adaisseh near the Lebanese-Israeli border..
(photo credit: REUTERS/KARAMALLAH DAHER)
As Operation Northern Shield continues uncovering Hezbollah’s terror tunnels and infrastructure spreading from southern Lebanon into sovereign Israeli territory, more questions need to be raised about the current and future roles of UN peacekeepers in the area.
Hezbollah’s activity is a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms to end the month-long Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. The resolution bans any military presence south of the Litani River except for the Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Evidently for a long time, Hezbollah has been building military infrastructure along – and underneath – the border with Israel while UNIFIL either looked on without taking action or purposely ignored what was taking place. It should be noted that in addition to building the tunnel network, apparently with the intention of using it to seize a town or community in the Galilee, Hezbollah is reportedly building underground factories where it can produce sophisticated rockets. It is also receiving a supply of precision-guided missiles from its patron, Iran, a sponsor of international terrorism. Hezbollah has also deployed tens of thousands of rockets throughout southern Lebanon.
This makes a mockery of Security Council Resolution 1701, and has some disturbing implications regarding just how much Israel can trust UN forces. According to UNIFIL’s own website, under Resolution 1701, the UN Security Council authorized 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. It should also resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 states that UNIFIL is to “assist the Lebanese armed forces” in ensuring that southern Lebanon – from the Litani River to Israel’s northern border – is free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon.
There are currently just over 10,600 UNIFIL troops, and UNIFIL publications stress that their main focus has been on “restoring international peace and security.” They have clearly failed. Allowing Hezbollah to develop a terrorist infrastructure along the border does not bode well for international peace and certainly does not provide security.
Yesterday, The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon wrote that a senior diplomatic official said Israel knows it is unrealistic to change UNIFIL’s mandate from a monitoring force to one that will actively stop Hezbollah from burrowing tunnels into Israel, since few countries would then volunteer their forces for such a mission.
“According to the official, whose country is among the 42 which contribute forces to UNIFIL, Israeli security officials have made it clear that they don’t think a changed UNIFIL mandate is realistic, simply because they won’t get it,” wrote Keinon.
“If one wanted to change the mandate, it is clear that there would not be 10,000 soldiers” to make up the force, the official told Keinon.
But the international community cannot turn a blind eye to the explosive situation. It is the moral duty of the world body to ensure that UN forces are willing and able to carry out the job they were sent to do: prevent hostile activity. The UN can no longer pretend it didn’t know what was going on. Either UNIFIL is unable to take action or it is unwilling to.
Last week, the UN General Assembly missed an opportunity to pass the US-sponsored resolution that condemned Hamas. Although 87 countries voted in favor of the resolution, it wasn’t enough to meet the two-thirds vote required for its passage.
The UN has a chance now to show that it has not completely lost its moral compass when it comes to Israel. The UN Security Council should be convened and unequivocally condemn Hezbollah’s attacks against Israeli sovereignty. Failing to take real action to prevent an attack by Hezbollah – or any other terrorist organization – will mean the UN will be complicit in it.
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