In the best traditions of Ko Ko - the Lord High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set Jerusalem alight as his entourage trumpeted the words -
“Behold the Secretary-General
A personage of noble rank and title-
A dignified and potent officer,
Whose functions are particularly vital!
To the Lord High Executioner!”
The Secretary General had flown in from Moscow - where the Quartet comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations had called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations - declaring:
“These negotiations should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its neighbours,”
It is hard to believe the Secretary -General - and indeed the Quartet - could spout such nonsense bearing in mind that the strict time frames laid down to achieve precisely this outcome in the 1993 Oslo Agreement , the 2003 Road Map and at Annapolis in 2007 had all come and gone with the same goal - the inappropriately named “two -state solution“ - never having got off the ground.
The Secretary General continues to demean whatever authority and credibility the United Nations might think it has - and the Quartet also does likewise - by seeking to pursue a solution that has no possible chance of coming to fruition.
A dignified officer the Secretary-General Mr Ban may be - but a decidedly impotent one for sure.
Our modern version of the Lord High Executioner had an additional message to convey as he made the short trip from Jerusalem to Ramallah to meet Mahmoud Abbas - the modern counterpart of Pooh Bah in the Mikado .
Abbas - like Pooh Bah - claims to be self-important or high-ranking yet possesses limited authority while taking impressive titles.
Abbas clings to the title of the President of the Palestinian Authority although his use by date expired 15 months ago. His Parliament and Prime Minister are self appointed whilst the elected Parliament and elected Prime Minister languishes powerless in Gaza.
Abbas has been politically neutered by Hamas and cannot guarantee the Palestinian Authority to honour any agreement with Israel.
Abbas still calls himself the Chairman of the PLO and wears two hats - one that calls for Israel’s destruction and the other that supposedly is anxious to negotiate with Israel and recognize Israel as the Jewish State.
Yet this is the man whom the Secretary-General comes to visit - taking the opportunity to repeat the following canard that has been part of the United Nations flawed thinking for the last 43 years:
“Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped.”Let me be absolutely clear - and let the Secretary-General use the vast resources at his power to prove me wrong. There are no binding authorities in international law that support the Secretary-General’s statement.
There are legal opinions that support the Secretary-General’s view that are based on the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The most notable of these is the “top secret” legal opinion given in September 1967 by Theodor Meron - then legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry - only retrieved by a historian Gershom Gorenberg when researching material to include in his book - The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 - which was published in 2007.
As Gorenberg tells the story:
” As for that legal opinion: It was written by Foreign Ministry legal counsel Theodor Meron, a Holocaust survivor with a doctorate in international law from Harvard. Meron was the government’s top expert in the field. A decade later, he accepted an academic appointment in the United States and became a world-renowned authority on international law. Today he is a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
His status gives particular weight to the words he wrote 41 years ago: “My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Meron’s opinion - and others that support him - certainly must be considered but they are not the be all and end all of legal opinions on the right of the Jews to build settlements in the West Bank.
There are other legal opinions - by people of similar status to Meron - that take the contrary view who determine that the settlements are legal based on the provisions of the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the 1945 United Nations Charter - two crucial pieces of international law that were not even considered by Meron or as far as I am aware by any of those supporting Meron‘s opinion.
These opinions include:
•The International Court of Justice in an advisory legal opinion on the effect of article 80 on 21 June 1971.
•Professor Paul Riebenfeld - an international lawyer who spent his life researching the Mandate Archives in Geneva and was present at the debates that took place at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 that led to the inclusion of Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
•Judge El Araby - a member of the International Court of Justice.
•Eugene Rostow former Dean of Yale Law School and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration and Director of Disarmament and and Arms Control in the Reagan Administration.
The Secretary General would do well to heed the following words sung by Ko Ko:
“Wafted by a favouring gale
As one sometimes is in trances,
To a height that few can scale,
Save by long and weary dances”
Few can indeed ascend to the dizzying heights to which the Secretary-General of the United Nations can lay claim.
However that position carries with it the responsibility to be very careful about what he says. Being scrupulously honest and unbiased - especially when it comes to the provisions of the United Nations Charter that he is sworn to uphold - is essential.
Wafted by a gale of Jew hatred that seeks the elimination of the Jewish State promised by the Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Charter - has blinded the Secretary General to his obligations. If he wants to play the role of the Lord High Executioner and have people defer to and respect his pronouncements - the Secretary General needs to be sure of his facts before chopping the head off his intended victim.