Quick. Someone call the irony police.
The Israelis are demanding that Lebanon and every other player with a stake in the Middle East comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. That’s the one that calls for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon, including, of course, Hezbollah.
On July 22, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, in which he cited U.N. 1559. The leader of the right-wing Likud party declared that Lebanon’s failure to disarm Hezbollah was a “direct violation” of the U.N. resolution. And he added that Israel was only using a “fraction of its firepower and is in fact, acting with great care to minimize harm to civilians.”
Given Netanyahu’s eagerness to cite U.N. resolutions, and given that the civilian death toll in Lebanon has passed 300 (many of the innocents are women and children) and given that the destruction of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure is nearly complete, it’s time to revisit the idea of U.N. resolutions. While doing so, let’s look at Israel’s compliance with those measures.
Let’s start with U.N. Resolution 242. Adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on November 22, 1967, shortly after the end of the Six-Day War, the opening section of the resolution emphasizes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” But the critical part of the resolution says that a “just and lasting peace” can only be achieved through certain measures. The first item on that list: “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflicts.”
Let’s continue with U.N. Resolution 338, also passed unanimously. It was approved on October 22, 1973, in an effort to end the Yom Kippur War. Much shorter than 242, the newer resolution calls on the Israelis and their neighbors to immediately stop fighting, and “to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation” of Resolution 242.
The world community is now approaching four decades since the passage of U.N. 242. And during those four decades, the Israelis have continued to obfuscate, evade, and even deny the plain wording of the resolution. During those four decades they have continued their military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. During those four decades, they have continued their occupation and outright theft of Palestinian land through the construction of dozens of settlements. Over the past couple of years, the Israelis have been building a wall that will, de facto, make permanent their taking of large swaths of Palestinian land. The wall subverts the clear intention of U.N. 242.
It’s particularly important to discuss U.N. 242 and 338 right now. Why? Well, on March 27, 2002, the Arab League, led by then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, adopted a peace plan that called for all of the Arab states to recognize Israel. Toward that end, the peace plan called for what else? the implementation of U.N. 242 and 338. That 2002 vote by the Arab League was held in Beirut the ancient city that is now being reduced to a rubble-filled graveyard by the Israeli military.
The Arab peace plan was extraordinary particularly since it came from Saudi Arabia, which has never recognized Israel. The heart of Abdullah’s plan has two elements: “full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights;” and “the acceptance of a sovereign independent Palestinian state.” In exchange, the Arab countries agreed to establish normal relations with Israel and “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended.”
That peace plan has foundered since 2002. The reasons for its failure are many. And if we want to play the blame game regarding the current situation in Lebanon, there’s plenty to go around: the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, the Iranians’ support for Hezbollah, the stridency of Hamas, the idiocy and corruption of the Syrian leadership, the weakness of the Lebanese government can all be cited as causes of the current conflict.
But the simple truth is that when it comes to complying with international norms of conduct on issues like the torture of prisoners, on the detention of prisoners without charge, or destruction of civilian infrastructure like electric power plants — Israel is a rogue. Eventually, all discussions about peace in the Middle East return to U.N. 242 and 338. And yet the only U.N. resolutions that Israel wants to abide by are the ones that favor its territorial expansion and unrestrained militarism.
So please, Bibi, spare us your sermons on U.N. 1559.
ROBERT BRYCE lives in Austin, Texas and managing editor of Energy Tribune. He is the author of Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate. He can be reached at: email@example.com