15 April 1996
While most of the leaders of the Middle East were meeting last month at the Summit of the Peacemakers at Sharm al-Sheikh to pledge their support for combatting terrorism, Hizbullah terrorists were carrying out attacks on Israelis.
Since February 1, eight Israelis have been killed and twenty-nine more have been wounded by Hizbullah Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Last week, thirty-six more Israeli civilians were injured in several waves of Katyusha rocket attacks fired by the Hizbullah into northern Israel.
Several of the speakers here have already described Israel’s actions as if there were no murderous Hizbullah provocations against Israel and Israeli citizens. Such a description is bogus and deceitful. The truth is, after a long period of restraint and the exhaustion of all political and diplomatic means, the Israel Defense Forces is hitting back at Hizbullah strongholds with air, sea, and artillery strikes.
Israel’s primary obligation is to protect the security of all of its citizens. We will not allow our civilian population centers to be held hostage by Hizbullah. The Lebanese government does not have the ability or the will to control Hizbullah activities. Therefore, Israel must defend the security of its north by all necessary measures.
Israel has no territorial claim on Lebanon. And has no intention of entering into battles with either the Syrian or the Lebanese armies. But we have the right and obligation to defend our people.
The Lebanese government was told time and again: control the Hizbullah. If you are, as you claim, the sovereign government of Lebanon, then this is your obligation. It is interesting that the Lebanese government disarmed all of the militias which had operated within its territory, but never Hizbullah.
The Syrian government was told time and again: you control large portions of territory in Lebanon. Use your influence to stop the terrorists.
Israel has waited for the governments to respond, and gave ample time for diplomatic efforts, but to no avail. Hizbullah continued to carry out attacks against Israel with impunity. Now unfortunately, the time has come to take action ourselves.
Who among you would agree to the existence of an armed militia operating from within your territory, beyond the scope of your government’s authority, carrying out attacks against other states?
Who among you would allow your citizens to be attacked and killed by terrorists?
Who among you would choose not to exercise the right of self-defense?
Today, there are two trends emerging in the Middle East: one which seeks a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and another, inspired and supported by Iran, which is trying to kill the prospects for peace.
While peacemakers meet and sign treaties and create a new reality, the Hizbullah, the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and their Iranian master seek to pull us back to the old Middle East where violence and bloodshed were the order of the day.
Make no mistake. The stated goal of the Hizbullah is not the removal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, but the destruction of Israel. Last month, Hizbullah Vice Chairman Naeem Kassem stated, "We oppose and will continue to oppose the Zionist entity…Israel has no reason to exist." Hizbullah annually receives $70 million in financial aid from Iran. Hizbullah terrorists are trained in Iranian military installations and "Iranian Revolutionary Guards" are in Lebanon. I hope that the members of the Security Council will not ignore this outrageous situation.
Allow me to quote from the decisions reached in this week’s cabinet meeting as articulated by Israel’s Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
"A. Hizbullah has broken all previous understandings achieved in the wake of ‘Operation Accountability’ in 1993, and has deliberately created this escalation. The United States, which brokered the understandings between us, has established that the Hizbullah has not been honoring its commitments.
B. Israel will not permit Hizbullah to conceal itself among the civilian population. We will not permit the launching of Katyusha rockets from within Lebanese villages into northern Israel.
C. Hizbullah terrorists and facilities in Lebanon, including those in Beirut, will not enjoy immunity.
D. If civilian facilities in Israel are hit, there will be no immunity from strikes on corresponding facilities in Lebanon.
E. If the Hizbullah ceases its attacks, on a permanent basis, Israel will cease too.
F. The Government of Israel will not accept the freedom which the Lebanese government grants to terrorist groups to operate from its territory without interference."
I would like to reiterate to you, the members of the Security Council: please understand that Israel has no interest or intention of the escalation into a war, but we are forced to act in order to defend our people. As a sovereign and democratic state we are committed to achieving peace and security. Our security must be insured in order to enhance the peace process.
Operations are being conducted solely against Hizbullah terrorist targets. But Hizbullah positions are situated throughout Lebanon, and are usually located in the midst of civilian population centers.
Unfortunately, innocent civilians, on both sides of the border, are suffering as a result of this confrontation. For this we are sorry. But this escalation was initiated by the murderous acts of the Hizbullah. We hope that this unnecessary suffering will soon be over, permanently. It must be based on the understanding that all parties are committed to maintaining peace and security for all people in the area. This is our intention. This is our hope.
We call upon you to understand and support this policy.
Thank you, Mr. President.