Mr. Begin on self-defense

Recently, there has figured most potently on our agenda, as on that of the international community, the problem of national self-defense. It is our duty to try to clarify it in the most exhaustive fashion possible.

A definition of this concept appears in the United Nations Charter, Article 51, which reads: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security."

There is not a great deal to be learned from this generalized definition. It does contain, however, an important concept, namely that self-defense is natural. It enshrines a serious factual stipulation that a nation which is attacked is not obliged to wait until the Security Council has, in the language of the charter, taken necessary measures. A nation has the right to defend itself and, since it is a natural right, one can also emphatically state: it has a duty to defend itself.

A much more exact definition is to be found in the famour Treaty of Locarno, which Churchill described as the most precise of all international agreements. The Treaty of Locarno stipulates:

"Germany and Belgium, and also Germany and France, mutually undertake that they will in no case attack or invade each other or resort to war against each other. This stipulation shall not, however, apply in the case of the exercise of the right of legitimate defense, that is to say, resistance to violation of the undertaking contained in the previous paragraph."

In other words, if one of the countries signatory to the agreement attacks its neighbor or invades its territory or wages war against it, the assaulted country, in exercising its right to legal defense, has the right to attack the aggressor country, to invade its territory, and to wage war in return.

In this context, the definition of aggression as proposed time and again by the Soviet Union in the United Nations is of great interest. And aggression obviously renders to the violated country the full right to legitiate self-defense. In the Soviet document it is written, inter alia:m

"The use by a state of armed force by sending armed bands, mercenaries, terrorists, or saboteurs to the territory of another state . . . all these shall be considered as acts of indirect aggression."

And, clearly, indirect aggression is aggression.

Whatever the definitions be, and whatever their interpretations, it is clear to every man of goodwill that . . . in going forth to destroy the atomic reactor near Baghdad -- which was constructed to produce atomic bombs, as attested to by the most authoritative nd reliable information reaching us -- our country acted in the name of legitimate national self-defense in the highest sense of the term. The mission of our air force was in the fullest sense of the term an act of rescue of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, among them tens of thousands of Israeli children.

The very same applies to the operations of all branches of the Israel Defense Froces against the terrorist organizations in Lebanon, which recieve their weapons in massive quantities -- including Katyusha rockets, tanks, and long-range artillery -- from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Bulgaria, Syria Libya, and also, as we discovered with absolute certainty a few days ago, from Saudi Arabia.

There are, among allies and non-allies alike, those who distort truth by saying that our air force set out to bomb Beirut by the decision of the government. Not so. It was the Syrians and the terrorists who shelled and bombed Beirut, sowing the death of thousands of civilians by turning their weapons directly and intentionally against the civilian population and transforming the once beautiful city into a ghost town.

Our air force was on a mission to attack the terrorist headquarters in Beirut and elsewhere, those same headquarters from which the orders were issued to shell, brutally and incessantly, Kiryat Shmona and Nahariya, Misgav Am and Metullah townships, moshav villages, kibbutzim all with the sole premeditated purpose of striking at the civilian population. In this defensive operation civilians too were hurt, and we deeply regret it. However, we could not grant these murderous headquarters immunity forever.

I shall say but one more brief word on this matter. He who, whether in Israel or abroad, would throw the first stone at us, let him please turn the pages of his own history, which by chance or otherwise is completely familiar to us -- he will then know, and let him ponder.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.