While Israel is committed to cooperating with the United Nations to ensure the full implementation of resolution 1701, serious threats to peace and security in Lebanon stand in the way of fully implementing this resolution.
Thank you, Mr. President. Allow me to commend you for your able stewardship of the Security Council this month.
I would like to begin by offering Israel’s condolences to all of those affected by the appalling attacks on UN Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria last week.
Israel welcomes the adoption of today’s resolution and the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate. UNIFIL plays a vital role in promoting stability in our region. I would like to convey Israel’s appreciation to the UNIFIL troops, their commanders, the troop contributing countries, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Israel is committed to cooperating with the United Nations to ensure the full implementation of resolution 1701.
Yet, as we convene here today, serious threats to peace and security in Lebanon stand in the way of fully implementing this resolution. I would like to highlight four of these challenges this morning.
First, Hizbullah continues to rapidly build up its arsenal of advanced weaponry – and expand its military presence throughout Lebanon, including south of the Litani River. Tens of thousands of sophisticated missiles and rockets are now in the hands of this terrorist organization. Its growing arsenal places the majority of Israeli civilians under the specter of attack.
Hizbullah seeks to acquire even more advanced weapons through joint and coordinated transfers of illegal arms supplied by Iran and directly facilitated by Syria across the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The United Nations and others in the international community are aware of the scope and magnitude of these transfers. Yet, the existing arms embargo has not been enforced – and there has been a lack of progress in the disarmament and disbandment of Hizbullah and other militias, as is mandated by Security Council resolutions. Israel views this stagnation with great concern.
Israel’s second issue of concern relates to the cynical Hizbullah tactics that use Lebanese civilians to further their terrorist activity targeting Israeli civilians. Since the deployment of UNIFIL forces in 2006, Hizbullah’s modus operandi has shifted towards intentionally embedding its military infrastructure within civilian villages and residential areas. These deployments are occurring in UNIFIL’s area of operations and throughout other densely populated areas of Lebanon. Hizbullah terrorist bases, firing positions and missile storage centers are located adjacent to – and sometimes within – schools, hospitals, homes and mosques.
Such exploitation of civilians as human shields stands in grave violation of international law. On numerous occasions, Israel has provided the international community with detailed information about these violations. Yet, they continue.
More concerted efforts must be made to fully implement paragraph 8 of today’s resolution, which calls on all states to, (and I quote) "fully support and respect the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL."
The Lebanese Authorities bear particular responsibility for putting an end to these serial violations of resolution 1701.
Thirdly, Israel remains concerned by the violence directed at UNIFIL – and Hizbullah’s continued attempts to obstruct the movement and work of the force. From the periodic 1701 reports, it is clear that Hizbullah has long used so-called civilians to impede UNIFIL’s ability to operate. It employs a range of tactics, including throwing stones, threatening the force with weapons and confiscating equipment. The recent terrorist attacks against UNIFIL on May 27th and July 26th marked a serious escalation in the violence directed at the force – and should be taken very seriously.
The United Nations and the international community cannot stand by as Hizbullah continues to obstruct UNIFIL’s work. While Hizbullah’s fingerprints are all over these clear obstructions, its name is hardly ever mentioned in UN reports. The international community must also ensure that the force has the tools and soldiers necessary to carry out its mandate effectively.
Finally, despite its obligations under Resolution 1701, the Government of Lebanon continues to take provocative actions along the Blue Line. On August 1st, a soldier from the Lebanese Armed Forces fired on Israeli Defense Forces situated south of the Blue Line. This was not isolated incident – and it was only by chance that this event did not result in casualties. Let me remind this Council that on 3 August 2010, in a similar incident, the LAF shot and killed reservist IDF Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari.
We expect the Government of Lebanon to prevent these incidents from reoccurring in the future. The international community must also take action to prevent further provocations – and convey a clear message to Lebanon that such attacks carry serious potential for escalation.
As such, Israel welcomes the call, once again, in today’s resolution for all parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety – and will continue to work with UNIFIL to visibly mark the Blue Line in its entirety. These efforts are integral to ensuring regional stability – and we call on Lebanon to uphold its clear international obligations in this regard.
The presence of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon serves an indispensable role in advancing stability in our area. In conclusion, I wish to reiterate our support for today’s resolution, to extend our deep appreciation to all troop contributing countries, and to emphasize our sincere gratitude to the men and women of UNIFIL – who are performing a difficult task in a difficult environment to promote peace and security for all in our region.