11/19/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/19/2019 20:48
WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Co-Chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, and Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D, VA-02) led 241 Members of Congress in urging the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres to defend Israel, limit Hezbollah and bolster existing UN capabilities to fight terrorism in the Middle East.
More than 13 years ago, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1701 to end the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah. The resolution called for the Lebanese government to disarm all paramilitary groups in the country, including Hezbollah, so only the Lebanese state had weapons.
However, Lebanon's work to implement this resolution has been unsuccessful as Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of 150,000 rockets and missiles - all aimed at Israel - while spending millions of dollars developing underground tunnels that also pose a lethal risk to innocent civilians.
Signed by 241 House members, Representatives Zeldin and Luria's effort urges Secretary Guterres to follow Resolution 1701 and lead an international effort to limit Hezbollah's capabilities and avoid future conflict with America's ally Israel.
Specifically, the letter calls on Secretary Guterres 'to assist Lebanon's Prime Minister and President to finally reclaim Lebanese sovereignty and implement all the terms of UNSCR 170,' including utilizing a United Nations force to help Lebanon secure its land and protect Israel.
Congressman Zeldin said, 'Hezbollah and its nefarious financial banker and weapons supplier Iran pose an imminent geostrategic threat to our greatest ally Israel, and Lebanon's willingness to turn a blind eye to Hezbollah's operation within its own borders, only enables this terrorist organization. Failing to comply with international law and disarm all paramilitary groups within its borders, Lebanon has allowed Hezbollah to amass loads of weapons, including an arsenal of 150,000 rockets. Lebanon must hold up its end of the deal and crack down on Hezbollah within its borders.'
Congressman Lauria said, 'The names on this letter show the robust bipartisan support for protecting our ally Israel from Hezbollah and Iran's toxic activities. When I visited Israel in December, I saw the border with Lebanon and know what is at stake if Hezbollah is able to freely amass weapons. I'll keep fighting to ensure the United States continues to stand with Israel.'
Congresswoman Stevens said, 'I am glad to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to express bipartisan concerns about Lebanon's unsuccessful efforts to disarm Hezbollah and other paramilitary groups. Hezbollah has now amassed an arsenal of 150,000 rockets and missiles, threatening Israel and undermining Lebanese sovereignty. The United Nations must spearhead an international effort to limit Hezbollah's capabilities and support Israel's right to self-defense.'
Congressman Waltz said, 'Israel is our strongest ally in the region but faces constant threats to its sovereignty from many adversaries including the terrorist organization Hezbollah. This letter affirms the United States stands with Israel against these threats and asks the United Nations to execute its promise to do the same.'
A signed PDF of the letter is available here.
Full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Mr. Secretary General,
As Republicans and Democrats, we are united in our concern about the continuing, serious violations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and the resulting threat our ally Israel faces on its northern border.
As you know, UNSCR 1701 called upon the Lebanese Government to extend its sovereignty over all of Lebanon and to disarm 'all armed groups in Lebanon, so that…there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State.' The resolution also increased the size and mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to help Lebanon secure its border, prevent the unauthorized importation of arms and promote a zone north of the Israel-Lebanon border, '…free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL…'
After 13 years, Lebanon's attempts to implement this resolution have been unsuccessful. Instead, under the nose of UNIFIL and the international community, Hezbollah has built a murderous capability aimed at Israel's civilian population. In the thirteen years since the unanimous passage of the Security Council resolution, Hezbollah, with the assistance of Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, has amassed a deadly arsenal of about 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel. Iran is currently exacerbating this threat by transferring precision guided munitions to Hezbollah and building munitions factories in Lebanon for the benefit of the internationally-recognized terrorist organization. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, regularly threatens the people of Israel and, as recently as last month, Hezbollah launched a missile attack on northern Israel.
Hezbollah has also spent tens of millions of dollars to develop an underground attack capability. Last year, Israel exposed six terror tunnels that crossed from southern Lebanon into Israel. Hezbollah built these tunnels to enable armed Hezbollah terrorists to enter Israeli towns to kidnap and kill civilians.
The United Nations Security Council spoke out clearly and unanimously by passing UNSCR 1701. In doing so, the international community committed itself to Lebanese sovereignty and Israeli security. Hezbollah's military build-up threatens both. We believe Beirut must address the Hezbollah challenge on an urgent basis. Continued failure to do so weakens Lebanon's relationship with the international community and increases the threats to the Lebanese People and Israel's security.
We also urge you, Mr. Secretary, to assist Lebanon's Prime Minister and President to finally reclaim Lebanese sovereignty and implement all the terms of UNSCR 1701, including allowing UNIFIL to fulfill its mandate in southern Lebanon. At the same time, we request that you insist that UNIFIL fully implement its mandate despite pressure from Hezbollah. UNIFIL should accurately report on Hezbollah violations of UNSCR 1701 and work with the Government of Lebanon to remove Hezbollah's weapons from the south.
It should be evident to all that Israel faces a growing threat from Hezbollah's missile arsenal. No country can tolerate a terrorist organization on its border acquiring the capability to endanger its population. Israel has the right to defend itself and will have the full bipartisan support of the United States if it must act to protect its citizens.
Furthermore, in light of recent events, we recognize major steps will have to be taken by Lebanon's political leadership to address deep popular concerns about economic instability, governance, and corruption. We therefore urge the UN to continue efforts to ensure the government of Lebanon remains independent and fully sovereign.
We urge you, Mr. Secretary, to lead an international effort to limit Hezbollah's capabilities and to avoid the devastating but avoidable outcome of which you have previously warned. We fear significant civilian costs in Lebanon if Israel must act to defend its citizens because Hezbollah has positioned its massive arsenal in civilian areas - turning much of Lebanon's population into human shields. Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for that, as will the Government of Lebanon and the international community.
We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this and other issues with you in the near future.