Upholding International Legitimacy

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, attained high marks for the United Nations by successfully averting a military confrontation in the Gulf, although it is of course not clear whether this will last. Indeed, the Secretary-General brought the United Nations back onto the international scene as an integral player. He did so using both his personal skills and on the basis of a clear legal and political vision: the need to respect and implement all Security Council resolutions relevant to Iraq, which translates into the need to uphold international legitimacy.

Many hope that this successful intervention will embolden the United Nations, allowing it to play a more important role with regard to the Middle East conflict and enabling it to apply to the conflict the same principle of respect and compliance with Security Council resolutions. The Security Council has adopted scores of resolutions, of which twenty-four affirm the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem. Some of these resolutions unequivocally forbid Israel from changing the demographic composition, the geographic status and the historical character of Jerusalem and reject all Israeli actions taken to change the city and annex it. Numerous other resolutions specifically consider Israeli settlements as illegal and require Israel to immediately cease such activity and even to dismantle existing settlements.

Israel has rejected all of these binding Security Council resolutions and has not complied with any of the demands therein. Israel is the only Member State to do so and escape the consequences, mainly because of the automatic protection accorded to it by the United States against any further action by the Council, including the enforcement measures provided for under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Various Israeli officials have made some illogical comments about those resolutions, making remarks such as: Security Council resolutions under Chapter 7 have enforcement mechanisms, while Security Council resolutions under Chapter 6, such as those related to Israel, do not have such mechanisms. This is absolutely irrelevant. All Security Council resolutions are binding. Whether a resolution entails enforcement mechanisms under Chapter 7 or not, the provisions and demands of that resolution must be respected and complied with.

Article 25 of the Charter states that "the Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter." To illustrate that responsibility, in many of the resolutions adopted under Chapter 6 on numerous different issues, the Council has determined that, in cases of non-compliance, it would seek further action under Chapter 7 of the Charter to ensure compliance with its resolutions.

With the adoption of such a large number of binding Security Council resolutions over the many years, can we hope that the international community will uphold international legitimacy in the case of Palestine? This hope should become reality.