Statement by H.E. Ambassador Dan Gillerman
Permanent Representative of Israel
Before the Security Council
During the debate on “The Situation in the Middle East”
(8 August 2006)
For the past four weeks, the peoples of Israel and Lebanon have been caught up in a brutal and tragic conflict. It has caused unbearable loss and suffering on both sides. It is time to bring this conflict to an end.
But speeches and resolutions do not themselves end conflicts. Neither do good intentions. Conflicts are ended by actions not by words. They are ended when those who sparked the conflict and those who seek to continue to threaten the region, are confronted and overcome.
The critical test this Council faces is not whether it can adopt a resolution. The question is whether this Council and the international community can adopt a course of action, a blueprint for change, which will end the threat that Hezbollah and its sponsors pose to the people of Israel and Lebanon, and to the region as a whole. That is the test. And both the forces of terror and the forces of moderation in the Middle East are looking to the Council to see if it us up to that challenge.
Neither the people of Israel nor the people of Lebanon have any wish to be in this conflict. There is no quarrel between us. Six years ago Israel withdrew its forces from every inch of Lebanese territory, as this Council has emphatically confirmed. It could not be clearer: the issue in this crisis is not territory but terror.
During the past six years Hezbollah terrorists, funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran and Syria, have dug their roots deep into Lebanese soil, and have spread their poisonous branches throughout its towns and villages. The evil fruit of this growth has been over 13,000 deadly missiles, murderously directed at the people of Israel. And over the past four weeks Hezbollah has viciously implemented its threats, launching these lethal missiles directly and indiscriminately at the towns of Haifa and Nazareth, Kiryat Shemona and Kfar Giladi, targeting men, women and children, Jewish, Moslem and Christian alike.
No country in the world would - or should - allow a terrorist organization to publicly threaten its destruction, and to develop a vast infrastructure of terrorism unimpeded on its borders.
No state represented in this organization would - or should - sit passively while over 3,500 missiles are fired at its towns and villages, deliberately targeted at homes and hospitals, at schools and kindergartens.
No government would - or should - do less to protect its people than the Government of Israel has done in the face of this Hezbollah campaign of terror, and no people would - or should - be satisfied unless their leaders did the same.
Israel, like any State, has done, and will continue to do, whatever is necessary to protect the lives of its citizens. It has the right and the duty to act in self-defense. And it will spare no effort to bring its abducted soldiers home.
In fulfilling this responsibility to protect its citizens, Israel’s task is doubly complicated. It must defend itself against an enemy who not only deliberately targets civilians, but who also hides among them, concealing its weapons and rocket launchers in the heart of civilian communities, as well as in mosques and in UN Compounds. For Hezbollah, civilians are not just a target but also a shield.
In this impossible situation, in which Hezbollah openly flouts the fundamental humanitarian principle of distinguishing combatants from civilians, Israel has made strenuous efforts to defend itself in accordance with the principles of international law, to direct its attacks against military targets, and to avoid disproportionate damage to the civilians used as cover by the terrorists. At the same time, even as the terrorist missiles fly, Israel has worked to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the population can be met, enabling convoys carrying aid and supplies to reach those who need them and facilitating evacuation of foreign citizens and UN personnel.
Could there be a difference more striking or profound than that between Israel and the terrorists it is confronting:
- between those who equip their residential buildings with bomb shelters and those who fill them with missiles;
- between those who drop leaflets entreating civilians to leave the terrorist strongholds; and those who hide rocket launchers beneath unknowing apartment dwellers; or
- between those who mourn the death of every civilian - Lebanese or Israeli - as a tragedy and a failure, and those who see it as a victory and cause for celebration.
I believe that the people of Lebanon, through all the pain and anguish of these past few weeks, have seen through the callous disregard of Hezbollah which claims to fight their cause, but places a weapon next to a sleeping child.
I believe that one courageous Lebanese youngster was speaking for many when he wrote on his internet blog: “It is not only Israeli soldiers the Hezbollah has taken hostage, it is us, the people of Lebanon”.
I believe that it has never been clearer that, for all its talk of bravery, Hezbollah has demonstrated the lowest form of cowardice – cowering behind the weakest members of society. Indeed, in many cases Hezbollah’s lethal missiles are fired on timers, so that the terrorist can flee the launching site while leaving helpless families behind to shield a military target.
In this, the terrorists have learned well from their sponsors, from Iran and Syria. Just as Hezbollah chooses to hide behind others, and fight from within their homes, so do Iran and Syria demonstrate cowardice and disdain, fighting their wars through proxies, on Lebanese soil. Perhaps more than anything else it is this disdain for the lives of those they claim to be fighting for, this chain of cowardice, which unites Iran and Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas - the Quartet of Terror.
These past four weeks of violence have taken a painful toll on the Lebanese and Israeli peoples. But they have also created a new opportunity.
After six years of inaction that allowed Hezbollah, with the backing of Syria and Iran, to develop a lethal capacity to destabilize the region, a significant part of this capability has been destroyed. Hezbollah bases have been dismantled, missile launchers and stockpiles of weapons have been removed, and the area of south Lebanon has been substantially cleared of the infrastructure of terrorism.
As a result, for the first time in six years, there is a possibility that Lebanon and the international community can begin anew and repair the omissions that led to the current crisis. But this requires determined and forceful action. It requires a strong, robust and effective international force, which will ensure the dismantling and disarming of all terrorist groups, and the implementation of resolution 1559, in all its parts. It also requires enforceable and effective measures which will prevent the continued supply and rearmament of weapons and ammunition from the merchants of terror in Damascus and Tehran, that continue on a daily basis – even as we speak. And it requires the Government of Lebanon to show the will and the courage to retake control of its destiny, to confront the terrorists that have wrought havoc on its society, and to meet the basic obligations placed by international law and by this Council on Lebanon, to end the use of its territory as a base to threaten the territory of others. These are fundamental and unconditional obligations expected of any government, and they are not dependent on its assent.
These are the practical measures needed to lead us out of this crisis. Israel is ready to cease hostilities, and to withdraw its forces if these effective measures will come in its place so that the terrorist threat on its citizens will finally be brought to an end. We want a cease-fire, but a cease-fire that sows the seeds of future peace not of future conflict.
The test of any resolution or proposal must be whether it will effectively bring about these practical changes on the ground. Let us not forget, a resolution is not an end, but a means to achieving our end: a new and sustainable situation in which the peoples of Lebanon and Israel are freed from the threat of terror, and have the chance to live a normal life in peace and prosperity.
I am sure my Arab colleagues who have spoken today, and who I believe are sincere in their desire for peace and stability for this region, do not want a resolution to create a vacuum that Hezbollah will fill. I am sure they do not want a return to the status quo ante, in which the terrorists and their sponsors can hold a region and the prospects for peace hostage. And I am sure they do not want a resolution that that demonstrates impotence, rather than action.
The terrorists are watching, Mr. President. If this Council adopts the path of half-measures, concessions and mere declarations they will be emboldened and we will find ourselves back at this table, a week, a month or a year from now facing a tragedy of similar, or even greater, proportions. But if this Council adopts a path of action, and takes the measures necessary to ensure that its own resolutions are implemented, terrorists and their sponsors in our region and throughout the world will know that they have come face to face with the will and resolve of a united international community. And as a result, the forces of peace and moderation in the Middle East will have won a crucial battle for the future of our tortured region.
We ask only that the international community stand by those forces of peace. That it understand that by fighting against terrorism, we fight for peace. And that it have the courage, the wisdom, and the conviction to ensure that the end of this conflict creates a new reality in which the moderates prevail, and the extremists meet with the justice and isolation that they so clearly deserve.
I turn once again to my Lebanese colleague, and through him to the Lebanese people: There is no dispute between us. The horrendous violence and suffering of these past few weeks has been fuelled not by any interest or agenda of either of our states. It has been fuelled only by the cynical and genocidal intent of extremist regimes that wish to destroy any possible prospect that we might turn their culture of hate into a culture of hope.
For the people of Lebanon this is a critical moment of decision; whether to cast your lot with those who will work to promote peace and prosperity, or with those committed to undermining any chance of such progress. The choice, quite simply, is between those who build and those who destroy. For the sake of our peoples, for the sake of our children, I beg you to choose the builders.
The flags of our two states, which show the Cedars of Lebanon and the Star of David, remind us that the common history of our peoples is one of building together. The Biblical book of Kings recounts that King Hiram of Tyre in Lebanon sent cedar trees and expert craftsmen to King Solomon, son of David, to join him in building the holy Temple in the city of peace, in Jerusalem.
Our people have a long and glorious history of building together. Let us find the courage to build together once again.
Thank you, Mr. President.