This is rich, I tell you. Israel, which has historically detested all international forums, finding them to be biased against it; and which detests UNIFIL with even greater venom has announced that UNIFIL will do quite nicely, thank you, as the ceasefire monitor in southern Lebanon:
Israel has lifted its demand for the deployment of a new multinational force in southern Lebanon and agreed that UNIFIL, the United Nations force already in place, would oversee the cease-fire.
In a draft text for a UN Security Council resolution on ending the crisis in Lebanon, agreed Saturday by the United States and France, it was concluded that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon would be replaced by a new force only after Israel and Lebanon reach agreement on the principles of a long-term accord.
In the immediate future, UNIFIL will be reinforced with more troops in order to be able to carry out its new mandate.
Returning to Israel’s intense dislike of UNIFIL, you’ll recall the direct hit on the Qhiam UNIFIL fortress which killed four of its soldiers. Much of the world finds this incident a deliberate act by the IAF. Even Ehud Olmert himself has rejected the notion that UNIFIL could police southern Lebanon:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last week that Israel “will not accept a force of the UNIFIL type, that was proven not to be effective. The force that will be deployed will have to comprise of armies, not pensioners who come to vacation in southern Lebanon, but real soldiers capable of fighting.
Why would they do something so preposterous as to revert to an entity they find impotent? Two reasons that I can see. First, Condi must’ve told them that the war has to wind down very soon and that the deal establishing the new peacekeeping force could not be readied in time (if ever). She must’ve told them that UNIFIL is the only other viable option. Second, Israel knows that UNIFIL is a paper tiger and would never stand in the way of another Israeli incursion against Hezbollah. Essentially, maintaining UNIFIL’s presence is a green light for Israel to attack the south at will. That’s very nice for Israel and the U.S. Even very nice for Hezbollah since UNIFIL will not deter it either from attacking Israel (and attack it they will). But Lebanon suffers because there can be no peace without a meaningful and proactive force maintaining a buffer between the two sides.
The Haaretz article also notes this ominous omission from the draft U.S.-French UN Security Council resolution attempting to end the war:
An official with knowledge of the document said the draft calls for a “full cessation of violence” between Israel and Hezbollah, but would allow Israel the right to launch strikes if Hezbollah attacks it.
“It does not say immediate cessation of violence,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft had not yet been made public.
That appeared to be a major victory for the U.S. and Israel. France and many other nations had demanded an immediate halt to the fighting without conditions as a way to push the region back toward stability.
The proposal does not include a demand that Israel withdraw its troops from positions in southern Lebanon, as demanded by Hezbollah.
So what exactly does this resolution do? It doesn’t end the violence. It doesn’t demand that Israel withdraw to its own territory. What the f(&k does it provide to Hezbollah or Lebanon that would make it interested in signing on? Zip. Nada. Zilch. Efes. Bubkes.
There is a plan to pass a later resolution which would attempt to lay out a longer term plan for a full resolution of the conflict. But in the Middle East, indefinite plans have a funny way of disappearing into the ether. Even firm agreements are often ignored if it is in the perceived interests of one of the parties. So how likely is it that we will see the second resolution? And if we don’t, then the first one will eventually disintegrate as well. The NY Times’ coverage picks up on this potential problem:
“There is considerable risk in this two-stage approach,” one [U.S. official] said, requesting anonymity because of his involvement in confidential negotiations. Among those risks, he said, is that a second resolution might not be adopted or that Hezbollah could use any cessation of hostilities to resupply. That in turn could prompt the Israelis to bomb or seize supply routes, provoking counterstrikes by Hezbollah and reigniting the conflict.
And this comment from an Israeli official seals the (doomed) fate of this resolution:
The Israeli official, who said he could not be identified discussing security matters, said Israel fully expected Hezbollah to attack the Israeli soldiers remaining in southern Lebanon. He argued that such an attack would give Israel the right to retaliate and return to the offensive.
Endless war. That’s what both sides seem to long for.
Here’s another delicious irony embedded in the resolution text:
The resolution calls upon “the international community” to extend aid to the government of Lebanon to help people return and begin the process of reconstruction.
How will the U.S. respond to this? We supplied the most damaging weaponry used against Lebanon. Will we feel under any obligation to repair the damage we have wrought? Nah, doubtful. Condi pledged a measly $30 million if I recall the number correctly. But just think. The U.S. could announce a plan to plow some serious money into Lebanese reconstruction, trumpet its humanitarian concern for the Lebanese, and farm the work out to Halliburton and Bechtel, their usual corporate suspects. Then U.S. contractors make money destroying the country AND rebuilding it. Diabolical, no?
Condi’s Not Going to Beirut
The Lebanese have finally agreed to meet with a Bush Administration official in the negotiations leading up to the UN resolution. But it’s not Condi who’s going. You’ll recall that after Qana, the Lebanese rescinded their invitation for her to hold talks with the prime minister (for some strange reason the NY Times, when it talks about this incident, always says that it was Condi who cancelled–trying to make Condi look less a fool than she already is?). Another person not going to Lebanon is Elliot Abrams, one of her point-people on the Mideast. Wonder why he’s not going? Could it be his slavish allegiance to Aipac and the entire anti-Arab neocon ideology. David Welch gets the nod on this trip. He’s also negotiated with the Palestinians. Welch seems to be the designated hitter with the Arabs and Abrams with the Israelis. Maybe if we had a more balanced Mideast policy you wouldn’t have to segregate our representatives because they all would be seen as honest brokers. I know, please don’t blow any of that liquid you’re drinking out of your nose. It was a preposterous wish to begin with.
The Fog of War Propaganda
The NY Times tells us that Israel has continued its valiant fight to enlist every possible ethnic group within Lebanon to hate it. It announced that it would attack Sidon, which is decidedly NOT a Hezbollah stronghold:
There were signs the fighting could expand: Israeli planes dropped leaflets over the city of Sidon, south of here, warning people to evacuate before expected airstrikes on “terrorist infrastructure.”
Sidon is an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim city, rather distant from Hezbollah strongholds farther south. In recent weeks it has been a collection point for many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting.
The Israeli Army also issued a statement saying it did “not consider the Lebanese people to be its enemy and does not want to harm them.”
As I started this post: that’s rich.