#49: The UN Failure in Lebanon
(July 27, 2006)
The United Nations was understandably upset when an Israeli bomb hit a base used by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on July 25, 2006, and killed four military observers. The Secretary General of the UN, however, displayed a shocking lack of judgment when he immediately accused Israel of deliberately attacking the UN, a charge rejected by Israel.
Throughout his tenure, Kofi Annan has shown no reluctance to condemn Israeli actions while simultaneously refusing to criticize the terror that provokes them. This was evident just days earlier when he spoke to the Security Council and accused Israel of using “excessive force” while failing to utter the word “terrorism” to describe that actions of Hizballah that sparked the current fighting or to mention Hizballah’s sponsors Syria and Iran.
Not surprisingly, Annan has failed to mention that UNIFIL bases have been used by Hizballah fighters as a shield behind which they fire at Israel. He also has been silent on Hizballah attacks on UNIFIL. The same day UNIFIL reported the Israeli bombing, it also said another UN position was directly hit by a Hizballah mortar. Hizballah also fired from the vicinity of UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri. The day before Hizballah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy. There’s more:
Annan has called for an investigation of the July 25 incident and, if it is conducted fairly, the report will show that UNIFIL has been an utter failure for its entire existence and that its complicity in Hizballah activities helped spark the current conflict.
In March 1978, PLO terrorists infiltrated Israel. After murdering an American tourist walking near an Israeli beach, they hijacked a civilian bus. When Israeli troops intercepted the bus, the terrorists opened fire. A total of 34 hostages died in the attack. In response, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon and overran terrorist bases in the southern part of that country, pushing the terrorists away from the border.
On March 19, 1978, the Security Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), in which it called upon Israel immediately to cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It also established UNIFIL. The IDF withdrew and the United Nations sent in a military contingent on March 23, 1978, that was supposed to prevent any further attacks against Israel from Lebanon. But UN troops were unable and unwilling to prevent terrorists from reinfiltrating the region and introducing new, more dangerous arms.
UNIFIL’s failure to prevent more than 200 terrorist attacks ultimately led Israel to reenter Lebanon in 1982 to drive out the PLO. Three years later, following the expulsion of the PLO leadership, and destruction of its terrorist infrastructure, Israel withdrew the bulk of its forces, leaving behind a 1,000-man force, deployed in a strip of territory extending eight miles into south Lebanon to protect towns and villages in northern Israel from the type of attacks it is now enduring. Israel said it would completely withdraw from Lebanon in return for a stable security situation on its northern border.
The hope was that the terrorists remaining in Lebanon would be disarmed. Instead, Iran was allowed to finance and arm Hizballah,. which initially confined itself to launching Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel and ambushing Israeli troops in the security zone, but gradually escalated its attacks on Israeli civilians. UNIFIL stood by and did nothing.
In April 1996, the IDF mounted “Operation Grapes of Wrath” to halt Hizballah’s bombardment of Israel’s northern frontier. During the operation, Israeli artillery mistakenly hit a UN base in Kafr Kana, killing nearly 100 civilians. Afterward, a Joint Monitoring Machinery, including American, French, Syrian and Lebanese representatives, was created to prohibit unprovoked attacks on civilian populations and the use of civilians as shields for terrorist activities.
Attacks against Israeli troops in the Security Zone and civilians in northern Israel continued, however, and as the number of casualties mounted, the Israeli public began to favor a withdrawal of its soldiers. On May 24, 2000, all IDF and South Lebanon Army outposts were evacuated. The Israeli withdrawal was conducted in coordination with the UN, and constituted an Israeli fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 (1978).
Israel thought that by completely withdrawing from Lebanon, Hizballah would have no justification for continuing its attacks — the old land for peace formula — and that UNIFIL would now do its job and prevent any further crossborder provocations. Instead, Hizballah interpreted Israel’s unilateral withdrawal as a victory for its terrorist methods. Rather than cease-fire, Hizballah was emboldened and believed it could continue to pursue its broader agenda of destroying Israel.
As a pretext for its attacks, Hizballah claims Israel “occupies” Shebaa Farms. This 100-square-mile, largely uninhabited patch was captured from Syria. In January 2005, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution condemning violence along the Israel-Lebanon border and reasserted that the Lebanese claim to the Shebaa farms area is “not compatible with Security Council resolutions.”
Meanwhile, UNIFIL has been a complete failure in meeting the objective of stopping terrorist attacks against Israel. On October 7, 2000, for example, three Israeli soldiers were abducted by Hizballah. The terrorists crossed through a UN-patrolled area to get to the soldiers on the Israeli side of the Israeli-Lebanese border, but were videotaped by UN troops. For almost nine months, Kofi Annan denied possessing any videotape related to the kidnaping. The UN finally admitted that they possessed the tape, but it was later learned they had two additional tapes and other evidence related to the abduction. When Israel demanded to see the tapes, the UN initially refused, but eventually relented after imposing a number of conditions, including editing them so as to obscure the faces of the kidnappers. The UN said it wanted to remain neutral and did not want to provide intelligence on one party. The three soldiers were later declared dead.
Since then, Hizballah has engaged in a number of attacks that have killed both Israeli soldiers and civilians and UNIFIL has done nothing to prevent the violence. In the current violence in Lebanon, UNIFIL remains an impotent force, allowing Hizballah to use its bases as a shield against Israeli fire and refusing to prevent rocket attacks even when launched from near its troops. UNIFIL is now aiding Hizballah by repairing roads that Israel has destroyed to prevent resupply of the terrorists.
The lesson of UNIFIL is that an international force, especially one sponsored by the UN, will not prevent a future conflict unless it is given a clear mandate to stop terrorists from attacking Israel and given the means to prevent provocations.