Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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What Happens When UN Security Council Resolutions are Ignored?

by Elliott Abrams
January 5, 2017


What happens when UN Security Council resolutions are ignored? That depends, really—on whether you are any of 192 other members of the United Nations, or are Israel.

Defenders of Israel often claim that it is treated differently by the United Nations from any other nation. That claim is accurate, and a brief look at Lebanon offers some proof. It continues to violate Security Council resolutions, year after year—but no one complains, and no one ever argues that Lebanon must be punished with boycotts or prosecutions for doing so. In fact they are often congratulated for their defiance.

The United Nations Security Council has been saying for decades that the Government of Lebanon must exercise control of its territory. Resolution 1559 of 2004 “Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and “Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.” By “Lebanese militias” the UN was referring to Hezbollah, but dared not speak its name. In any event, the Government of Lebanon did not comply.

Resolution 1583 was adopted unanimously in 2005 and in it the Security Council

Reiterates its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries and under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon;

Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it….

As the French ambassador said about that resolution when it was adopted, “in keeping with the present demands of the United Nations, Lebanon must extend its authority throughout the south, in particular, by expanding and deploying its forces and by disarming the militias.” But the Government of Lebanon did not comply.

Resolution 1701 of 2006, adopted to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah,

Welcomes the efforts of the Lebanese Prime Minister and the commitment of the Government of Lebanon…to extend its authority over its territory, through its own legitimate armed forces, such that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon….

Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory…for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon….

Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel….

But the Government of Lebanon paid no attention, or more accurately was unwilling to comply because it was afraid.

In the last week of December, 2016, Lebanon got a new government under Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and as is customary the new Cabinet issued a “Ministerial Statement” outlining its plans. Those plans openly defied the Security Council’s many resolutions on Lebanon and bowed to Hezbollah pressure.

Here are the relevant lines:

In our conflict with the Israeli enemy, we will spare no effort or resistance in order to liberate the remaining occupied Lebanese territory, and to protect our homeland from an enemy who still covets our land, our water and our resources….The Government affirms the right of Lebanese citizens to resist the Israeli occupation, repel the Israeli aggressions and recapture the occupied territories.

Note that it does not say the government of Lebanon has the right to resistance, or the state, or the Army, which would at least have endorsed the authority of the state in principle. The actual language legitimizes Hezbollah as a state within a state and legitimizes its military operations outside the control of the state. It was approved because Hezbollah demanded this, and the opposing forces (who got no visible Western support) were too weak to prevent it.

So Lebanon is in violation of Security Council resolutions, and deliberately so. There was plenty of discussion about this issue–what exactly would the Ministerial Statement say about Hezbollah and its “right” to arms–and some key figures resisted the language Hezbollah wanted. But Hezbollah got its way (on this and several other key issues).

What was the U.S. reaction? Here it is, from the White House:

The United States congratulates Prime Minister Hariri on the Lebanese parliament’s approval of his cabinet on December 28….The United States stands steadfast in its support for a strong, stable, prosperous, and sovereign Lebanon as the new government works to strengthen state institutions, prepare for timely national elections, and uphold and implement Lebanon’s international commitments.

But of course the Lebanese government had just announced, very clearly, that it was NOT going to “uphold and implement Lebanon’s international commitments.”

Now, some critics will say this is not comparable to the situation in Israel and the new Resolution 2334 on Israeli settlements, because the Netanyahu government has the power to act to freeze settlements. Why does it not do so? Ah, well, it’s a coalition government and some members of the coalition would oppose a freeze; indeed they would leave the coalition over this and the government might well collapse. But that’s pretty much the situation in Lebanon. “Hariri cabinet capitulates to Hezbollah demand” was the headline in Gulf News. Had Hariri not agreed, he’d never have become prime minister or his new government would have collapsed.

Of course the two situations are not comparable– not when you consider that Hezbollah is a murderous terrorist group that kills people every day, and was likely involved in killing Saad Hariri’s father Rafik in 2005. As the New York Times reported in 2015 about Rafik Hariri’s murder by car bomb and the UN tribunal investigating that event, “the tribunal is producing overwhelming, albeit circumstantial, evidence that Hezbollah murdered the most important politician Lebanon had ever produced, and indiscriminately slaughtered many others in the process.” So one can sympathize with Saad Hariri and other Lebanese politicians when they bow to Hezbollah. The people who might leave Netanyahu’s cabinet will go home, not pick up machine guns and plant car bombs.

But the fact remains that Lebanon is defying the Security Council very clearly and very deliberately, and no one says a word about it (except to applaud). No one is threatening a boycott of Lebanese goods until it complies. No one is suggesting that Lebanese politicians are violating international law by their complicity with and now official defense of Hezbollah. And actually, some pressure from the West might be useful in empowering and emboldening Lebanese politicians who are trying to resist Hezbollah, and risking their lives by doing so.

But that’s not the point here. The point is that plenty of countries defy the UN but in very, very few cases is this even noticed, and in fewer still is anyone punished. Israel remains a special case, whose maltreatment in the UN is a disgrace—and one that, until the Obama administration decided to allow Resolution 2334 to pass, the United States fought and prevented in the Security Council. It may be a vain hope that the UN will depart from past practices and stop persecuting Israel, but it seems very likely that under the Trump administration the United States will return to past practices and defend Israel again. That would be a good start for 2017.


Post a Comment 9 Comments

  • Posted by David Rice

    Mr. Abrams,
    You discuss the reason that the Netanyahu government does not “…act to freeze settlements,” where you say: “Ah, well, it’s a coalition government and some members of the coalition would oppose a freeze; indeed they would leave the coalition over this and the government might well collapse.” I have another idea why.
    If one Googles maps of Israel/Palestine over the period of time 1948-2016, it is apparent that there is an agenda; consider these quotes, and imagine what that agenda is.
    “On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them:’ ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”
    Numbers 33:50-56, Holy Bible (New International Version)
    “O believers, do not hold Jews and Christians as your allies. They are allies of one another; and anyone who makes them his friends is surely one of them; and God does not guide the unjust.”
    The Feast, 5: 51, Al-Qur’ān

    These quotes are from the source documents that lay the foundation of these two cultures (Jewish/Palestinian); nearest I can tell, these people will never get along peacefully, and because of World-guilt concerning the Holocaust (the Palestinian leadership sided with Hitler in that time period), it would appear that Israel will be the culture to stubbornly-dominate that land for a long time to come.
    Diplomats will be banging their heads against the wall until the map of that area is all Israel (which I suspect is the actual agenda; piece-by-piece). I do see how, considering the Holocaust, why the Israelis would be angry, and empowered to punish anyone who confounds their plans to have a home-land free of people who do not like them (especially ones that can’t keep from throwing rocks, shooting rockets and other things, and otherwise being unable to keep their hands to themselves). If I were a person living in a place where the agenda is to make my life miserable (a Palestinian now living in proximity to Israel), I would not spend the short time of my life insisting on being there, insisting on having my way; the world is big, and life too short. Even the Al-Qur’ān speaks to this:
    “As for those whose souls are taken by the angels (at death) while in a state of unbelief, they will be asked by the angels: ‘What (state) were you in?’ They will answer: ‘We were oppressed in the land.’ And the angels will say: ‘Was not God’s earth large enough for you to migrate?’ Their abode will be Hell, and what an evil destination!”
    The Woman, 4: 97, Al-Qur’ān

    Because the World did not stop the Holocaust in time to prevent the robbery/murder of around 6 million Jewish people (nor enable the Jewish people safe places to migrate to, as they desperately attempted to escape the NAZIs), there is guilt, and this is what makes Israel is a special case. Some might say: “It’s not fair;” but they must realize the unchangeable nature of death; there is no statute of limitations concerning murder, and all those peoples who either conspired to kill Jewish people, enabled their murderers, or obstructed their escape from murderers, or ignored the issue, have to pay a price, and in this case, the price is their land; this is why the Jewish settlements continue purposely, and relentlessly, regardless of who complains (considering the Holocaust, can you blame them?).

  • Posted by joseph berk md jd mhs

    On top of this, it’s clear the progression of UN resolutions are genocidal and schizophrenic: 242 mandates secure borders for Israel and the abutting countries, the final borders to be settled through negotiations (the UN at the time did not want to micromanage this for obvious reasons); and now 2334 mandates no secure borders (erasing defensive Israeli structures and settlements in the strategically suicidal areas of the Golan and around Jerusalem and the sea, eight miles wide), and no defined borders by negotiation (it’s already laid out and will probably be further defined on January 15th when the meeting will occur in France).
    So which operates? Haven’t women and children been murdered and slaughtered over this? How now can Israel barter land for defensive peace with no land, surrounded everywhere by enemies?
    Or how about the world hatred of the Jew is now very clear, setting the scene for the murder of six million more innocent souls?

  • Posted by hussein

    Mr. Abrams, this is very irresponsibly written, immature article which serves no purpose other than promoting possible chaos.
    If everyone is speeding and disregarding traffic laws we should do the same. If some are shoplifting without getting caught and escaping punishment with it we should do the same.. Is that the logic you are promoting. With your logic what kind of a world order can be achieved? Regardless of the laws are good or bad we all should obey it as it applies to all citizens. As a world citizens we should also obey the laws and act responsibly.
    Lebanon aside, look what happened when Saddam did not heed to UN orders. Don’t you think this is a better example nations should follow? I bet if the subject was not Israel you would agree with it wholeheartedly. So please cut out the cheap double talk.

  • Posted by Michael Hess

    I see Elliott censored the truth. I am not surprised, Elliott you should be deeply ashamed at what you have wrought. The censorship is just more proof that you have no intention of ever telling the truth, and that makes you not only a fool but a dangerous fool.

  • Posted by hussein

    Response to Michael:

    Thank you Michael, what you wrote is exactly what I meant to wrote. Elliott’s insinuations are simply immoral.
    This reminded me a story an elderly Palestinian Arab told me long ago about an honest, a corrupt and a conniving crook policemen. As a security measure against thieves honest policeman would check to see if the doors of the houses are locked. A corrupt policeman would check the same doors if they are unlocked. An observing crook and conniving policeman would create a laud chaos “Fire” ” Fire” “All Out” and when people are out of their houses he would help himself.
    Elliott is doing the same thing, promoting the crook /conniving policeman role. He is wishing to see a chaos starts and hoping to see Israel to benefit from it the best it could from the lawless situation.
    I rest my case, Mr Abrams.

  • Posted by Yehuda ben Zvi

    But Mr Rice, long before the Holocaust, in 1920-1922, the international community / League of Nations, as well as president Wilson and both Houses of Congress, unanimously endorsed and approved the Mandate given to Britain to be the trustee for the reconstitution of Israel in the entire Land of Israel from the sea to the Jordan River.
    Israel and the Holocaust are entirely separate issues.
    Israel is the concrete expression of the Jews’ inalienable right to national self-determination.
    As for the Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians”, Phillip Hitti, doyen of Arab historians, put it succinctly: “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in Arab history, absolutely nothing.”
    That Arabs ethnically cleansed all the Jews out of ‘The West Bank” and Gaza strip in the 1947-49 War of Arab Aggression does not confer on Arabs any sovereign rights in those territories.
    On the contrary- they started a war- they lost- too bad for them.

  • Posted by Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

    UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was a lawless resolution. The only good thing about it was that it was a Chapter 6 non-binding resolution rather than a Chapter 7 binding one.

    With this Resolution, Great Britain, France and the United States attempted to take away with one hand what they had given with the other hand via the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (Britain and France were League members when this Mandate was confirmed) and the 1924 Anglo-American Treaty (by which the U.S., which was not a League member, ratified the Mandate for Palestine, incorporating it word for word). Great Britain, France, and the United States, as permanent members of the Security Council, could all have vetoed Resolution 2334, and all should have done so. They have all violated the legal doctrine of estoppel–both promissory estoppel, since they have, by Resolution 2334, attempted to remove from Israel much of what was originally promised to the Jews and still belongs legally to Israel, and also proprietary estoppel, since what this resolution attempted to remove was territory that had previously been legally reserved for World Jewry–and with no legal provision ever for a Palestinian Arab state in Western Palestine.

  • Posted by hussein

    Response to Marjorie Stamn Rosenfeld

    Please show us where Jarusalem and West Bank was given with “one hand”. Even in Israeli law the outposts are illegal. so are the settlements. The so called occupied territories DO NOT belong the Israel. Period. Even the most Jews in the world accept that fact.

    Response to Yahuda ben Zevi:

    As claimed , if the land of Palestine is promised to “CHILDREN” of Abraham then Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians have the same rights as the Jews by the virtue of Ismael is also the son of Abraham. Ismael and Ishak are both by birth children of Abraham. Neither one is a stepchild and Abraham is not a stepfather.
    Seems some people can not accept the historical facts, political facts, facts of life and the laws & rules of the international community..

  • Posted by Lon W.

    Advise should be studied, hey? Am glad the world has an advisory body that assembles from time to time.
    The armed U.N. contingent from Nigeria stationed inside south-western Haiti neglected their administrative compound’s sewage output. The mess these soldiers created is directly responsible for the deaths of at least 9000 people (cholera). How can the advisory body itself be held accountable for the actions of this Nigerian contingent representing:
    1. the United States of America,
    2. the Republic of Maldives,
    3.The People’s Republic of China, Tibet,
    4. the Republic of Georgia
    5. the Republic of China (oops),
    6. the Republic of Rwanda
    7. the Federal Republic of Somalia
    amongst many other great and powerful sovereign nations.
    Literally? We are “responsible” as the entity that employs these Nigerians?
    Am sure it was an unintended consequence. So, of course the humans in Haiti that lost their lives will just be forgotten and the six countries specifically named above can go on their merry journey as United Nations along with the rest of the international community. Although, the Republic of China is not accountable as they are not a member of our assembly.
    What if… the Republic of Haiti declared war against Federal Republic of Nigeria?
    Would this be complex on an international level?
    Yet, Palaestine is just an idea on a piece of paper. Just as the international assembly of United Nations is just an idea (hope) on a piece of paper. The Jordanians, Syrians, and Egyptians that live in the former territory of Jordan have already vetoed the U.N. resolutions concerning the sovereign nation of Israel. I do not even understand “why” they would abide by any more advise. Proposals by the assembly of the United Nations?
    Tunneling into the sovereign nations of Egypt and Israel shows that the idea of sovereignty has no place in their mindset, also.


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