On Tuesday July 12th, the Security Council of the United Nations convened to discuss the current volatile situation in the Middle East, following the recently released Quartet report on the region. While the discussion veered heavily towards focusing on the hostile relationship between the Palestinian government and the Israeli government, Israel’s permanent representative to the Security Council, Danny Danon, took the opportunity to present extremely startling intelligence to the Council regarding the actions of extremist organization Hezbollah, specifically in Southern Lebanon.
For the past twenty years, Israel and Palestine have been involved in excruciatingly slow attempts to bring an end to the violent hostilities which affect both Israelis and Palestinians. Both countries have a litany of grievances to make against the other, including but not limited to violent actions on behalf of both sides, and inflammatory comments made by both heads of state. In this most recent debate, Israel’s permanent representatives to the United Nations Danny Danon and Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour addressed the Security Council to make their cases following a recent report made by the Middle East Quartet which evaluated the current state of the region. (The Middle East Quartet is composed of four acting members; The United Nations, The United States of America, the European Union, and Russia.) Their most recent report has been met with mixed reviews, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stating that “the report’s overriding message is irrefutable,” (full statement, quote at 1:00) while the Palestinian ambassador critiqued the report for its reluctance to address Israeli actions that he called “terrorism.” (The overriding message which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was referring to was the growing consensus that “as negative trends grow more frequent, the prospect of the two state solution grows more distant”- quote at 1:00.)
Following comments made by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the current president of the Security Council, Ambassador Koro Bessho of Japan called on Dr. Mansour to make the first speech. In his speech, Ambassador Mansour spoke about Palestine’s desire to salvage the two state solution and make peace- additionally, he discussed recent actions on behalf of Israeli militaries which resulted in the death of a young Palestinian boy and the actions which the Israeli government took in recently issuing 800 new building permits on what Dr. Mansour referred to as “Palestinian land”- it is, in fact, land which has come under disputed ownership in the conflict. These issues, especially the conflict over land occupation, stood in the way of achieving the peace which Ambassador Mansour claimed Palestine wants to set the stage for. In addressing future action on behalf of the Security Council, he asked that the Security Council and Quartet denounce Israeli actions against Palestinian citizens as terrorism and intervene in the building of new settlements by the Israeli government on disputed land. Referencing the latter specifically, Mr. Mansour stated that “It is their responsibility to tell us what practical steps they suggest for the security council to adopt to remove this major obstacle which is an illegal thing from the path of peace.” (Full statement, quote at 2:00.)
Following Dr. Mansour’s speech, the representative from Israel, Ambassador Danon, was called on to respond. In turn, Mr. Danon listed his country’s own grievances against the Palestinian government, leading with the fact that the country’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, has reportedly avoided engaging in peace talks with Israeli representatives. Additionally, he cited reports made by Palestinian President Abbas that Israeli operatives had planned on poisoning the Palestinian water supply as “blood libel, pure and simple blood libel,” and used the opportunity to stress that the main instigator for violence against Israeli citizens in the conflict were such inflammatory comments made by Palestinian officials. “The current wave of deadly terror in Israel is directly related to the ongoing incitement and culture of hate by the Palestinian authority,” (Full statement, quote at 2:15.) he said, and he stressed that if peace were to be achieved, the Palestinian government would need to cease such statements. Ambassador Danon also took the moment to remind the Security Council that Israeli leadership had expressed its willingness to meet with President Abbas at any time.
Danon moved away from the topic of the conflict with Palestine, however, to reveal to the council new pieces of intelligence which the Israeli government had garnered pertaining to the extremist organization Hezbollah. The group was supposedly dealt with ten years ago in a meeting by the Security Council in resolution 1701, a resolution which mandated that a ceasefire occur between Hezbollah and Israel, and the disarmament of all groups in Lebanon with the exception of the armed forces of the Lebanese government. However, in startling new intelligence, the Israeli diplomat revealed to the Council that Hezbollah had not, as was agreed upon, disarmed, but instead had been stockpiling weapons in Southern Lebanon. “Unfortunately we know exactly what’s happening today in Lebanon. I told the council that the situation in Lebanon has gone from bad to worse, and Hezbollah today has more than 120,000 missiles aimed at Israeli population centers.” (Full statement, quote at 00:38)
Ambassador Danon charged the Security Council with inactivity on the matter, saying that in the past years letters and pleas to discuss the matter had fallen on deaf ears. Presenting an aerial photo of a small village in Southern Lebanon, Shaka, consisting of 4,000 people and about 1,100 buildings, Danon pointed out that about one in three buildings were being used as missile strongholds, and that these strongholds were being placed strategically near schools, hospitals, and places of worship- a strategy which will reflect as a crime on Hezbollah, as they choose to use Lebanese citizens as human shields. Ambassador Danon called on the International Community and Security Council to act on this new information and enforce Resolution 1701, saying: “We expect the council to act. We expect the government of Lebanon will be in charge of what’s happening in Southern Lebanon. And I call on the Security Council to finally implement resolution 1701 and remove the terrorists from the border with Israel.” (Comment made at minute 1:50.) Danon also made note of the undeniable connection between Hezbollah and Iran, as Iran is known to be financially supporting the extremist group, and asked that in deciding on future action, this knowledge play a factor.