Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Israel's Letter to the U.N. and its Implications

On Monday, in the wake of more rockets from Gaza harming Israeli civilians and landing on schools, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. delivered a letter to Ban Ki-Moon, U.N. Secretary General and the president of the U.N. Security Council, who is currently the Libyan ambassador. The letter indicated that rockets from Gaza continued to hit Israeli civilian areas and reiterated Israel's right to self defense.

This raises two interesting points. First, the letter does not actually ask for anything. It merely says: 'we declared a ceasefire, they keep shooting, we have the right to shoot back.' A similar letter, using almost identical language in some places was sent to the U.N. by Israel on December 22, 2008, days before the war against Hamas began on December 27, 2008. That letter also did not ask for anything but merely stated Israel's position. If history repeats itself, perhaps a new round of intensified (because the last round never really ended) violence is about to begin.

The second point is that it appears that Israel, a country whose leaders and media have--at best--a lukewarm attitude towards the U.N. continues to view the organization as having value. The purpose of these letters may have been nothing more than to serve notice of impending military action or to comply with international law as enshrined by the "self-defense" article 51 of the U.N. Charter which requires that acts of self defense be reported to the U.N. Security Council. Whatever the intention, it bodes well for the future of the U.N. and the maintenance of an international law regime that those who have been so critical of the body, continue to recognize its role.

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