Kudos are due to the 87 nations that voted to condemn Hamas last week in the United Nations. With 57 votes against the U.S.-drafted resolution and 33 abstentions, proponents were not able to meet the required two-thirds majority to pass. But the vote did mark the first time the world body formally addressed the organization that has threatened Israel and exacerbated the suffering of Palestinians.
Now, the world body should look north to the Israel-Lebanon border, where last week Israel revealed the existence of two cross-border attack tunnels built by Hezbollah. Israel reported that it closed the tunnels south of the border — that is, where the tunnels ended within Israel — and called for the U.N.’s UNIFIL border peacekeeping force in Lebanon to close them within Lebanon, at their northern openings.
In addition to being an obvious threat to Israel’s security, the tunnels violate U.N. Resolution 1701, which sets out the ceasefire terms that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Among other things, the resolution forbids breach of the demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon. On that basis, the United Nations should condemn Hezbollah’s actions. But we’re not holding our breath. Nonetheless there is something about last week’s vote that brings a glimmer of hope that the world body may be ready to accept a new recognition of “reality” in the region.
Shortly after Israel revealed the tunnels’ existence, it was disclosed that Israel had been aware of them for a long time. Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon even said that officials lied when asked about them. “We did it to mislead the other side,” he told Army Radio. And, according to the Israeli military, Hezbollah was actually misled about how much Israel knew — even though ordinary Israelis may not have been completely surprised by the revelations, as residents in the north had complained for years about digging sounds, mainly at night, under their homes and in their fields.
According to reports, the first tunnel unearthed was significantly larger than the Hamas tunnels on the Israel-Gaza border — about 650 feet long and 80 feet deep. So those potential access points were serious threats to Israel’s security.
For that reason, no one in Israel has questioned the need to incapacitate the tunnels. But there was some skepticism regarding the timing of what was dubbed Operation Northern Shield, and the hype surrounding it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the middle of a coalition crisis and is battling a series of corruption allegations, and some accused him of unveiling the operation as a distraction.
No matter how that political debate plays out, there is no minimizing the very real danger Hezbollah tunneling poses to the Jewish state. And since Hezbollah’s tunnels plainly violate the clear terms of a U.N. resolution, the U.N. should do something to address that violation. There may even be at least 87 nations prepared to support that principled position