- According to Associated Press reports, the United States
and France agreed Friday on the terms of a UN Security Council resolution
to end the fighting in Lebanon. The main thrust of the agreed language
is an awkwardly worded call for an" immediate cessation by Hezbollah
of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military
operations." This language is said to permit Israel to defend itself
if attacked, but if the deal is strictly followed, Hezbollah would not
be permitted to fight back if the Israelis attacked alleging self-defense.
- The overall thrust of the proposed resolution would be
to create a system for working around Hezbollah in Lebanon. While Israel
appears to have been consulted on the terms--hence the language permitting
self-defense--there have been no indications that Hezbollah was or would
be a party to the agreement. Rather, the government of Lebanon would be
assigned the task of disarming Hezbollah, and Lebanon would agree to and
enforce rules on the acquisition of arms and ammunition that would be designed
to prevent Hezbollah from importing them from abroad, e.g., from Syria
- This resolution would create a buffer zone between Israel
and Lebanon that extends from the present border region some 20 miles into
Lebanon to the north side of the Litani River. The resolution would provide
for delineating the Israeli-Lebanese border, notably clearing up the problem
of the Lebanese territory known as Shebaa Farms that the Israelis held
onto when they withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.
- The present UN force, UNIFIL, would monitor the end of
hostilities. Once the Israelis and Lebanon agree on the principles, the
UN Security Council would authorize a new peacekeeping force which would
have the mission to "support the Lebanese armed forces and government
in providing a secure environment and contribute to the implementation
of a permanent cease-fire and a long term solution." This formulation
gives Israel the means to delay fielding of an international force indefinitely,
simply by refusing to agree to principles proposed by Hezbollah or the
Lebanese government. Thus, if implemented in those terms, the cease-fire
could give Israel extended occupation of the area south of the Litani River.
- It will be interesting to see how this plays in Lebanon.
The first problem with it is that there is no stated intent to include
any representative of Hezbollah in the process. Hezbollah is about to
be asked by Lebanese officials to disarm, but it is being, overtly at least,
offered nothing for such an important concession. Something of value would
be guaranteed freedom from capricious attack, including targeted assassination,
by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and/or agents elsewhere such as the
Biqaa Valley. That would prohibit such Israeli incursions as the raid into
Lebanese territory that led to Hezbollah capture of the two Israeli IDF
soldiers inside Lebanon.
- Something of value would be recognition that the Lebanese
Shi'a, including Hezbollah and Shi'a Amal, are roughly half of Lebanon's
population, the majority of its Muslims, and full participants in the Lebanese
political process. Nabih Berri, the long time head of Shi'a Amal and speaker
of the Lebanese Parliament, appears to be acting for Hezbollah leader Sheikh
Hasan Nasrallah and speaking for Lebanon in rejecting the US-French proposal.
He says the proposal is short by at least seven points. The required terms
include (1) an immediate cease-fire, (2) withdrawal of Israeli troops from
Lebanon, (3) an immediate prisoner exchange (While Hezbollah has two Israeli
prisoners, the Israelis hold thousands of Lebanese prisoners.), (4) takeover
of control in the south by Lebanese forces, (5) fielding of an international
force at the present Israeli-Lebanese frontier, (6) return of displaced
Lebanese to their home areas, and (7) provision of an Israeli map of minefields
left over from the previous Israeli occupation. Phase one of this plan
would be immediate action on points 1-3.
- The Berri proposal does not address key issues in the
US-Canadian plan: The disarmament of Hezbollah and arrangements to prevent
its reformation or rearmament, as well as formation of a Lebanese force
that (it appears) would not include Hezbollah fighters. This is a complex
political corner for both Prime Minister Siniora and Nabih Berri. They
have avoided these issues in the Lebanese proposal because both know that
such actions, if attempted, risk reviving civil war in Lebanon, the reopening
of Muslim/Christian divisions that have plagued Lebanon for centuries,
including most of the past twenty years. Given the new-found popularity
of Nasrallah among Lebanese generally, actions to ignore or discredit Hezbollah
could well cause the present government to fall, while re-igniting such
- Neither plan appears overtly to recognize that Nasrallah,
as leader of Hezbollah, is the leader of an important political party in
Lebanon, a cleric of renown among Shi'a Muslims, and has growing stature
among Muslims of both Shi'a and Sunni persuasions worldwide. Thus, for
many Muslims, the failure to involve him personally in the settlement of
this dispute would be the first sign that the drafters of a UN Security
Council resolution do not really understand or care what has been going
on here as the Muslim world sees it.
- The US-French proposal misses an important opportunity.
Hezbollah always has been primarily political in its focus. Its broad
public service and public works performance in southern Lebanon is the
root of its popularity among Lebanese Muslims; that, plus the fact that
it is fighting Israel and the West in defense of Muslims and their values.
Negotiation of a peace in Lebanon is a chance to move Hezbollah more decisively
toward its political role. In the past few years it already has moved
to a political position strong enough to hold two ministerial posts in
the present government and to share political power equally with Shi'a
Amal. While Israel may not like that, folding Hezbollah fighters legally
into the Lebanese military force would both bring them under the law and
improve the abilities of Lebanese forces to defend themselves.
- In fact, ignoring the main elements of the Lebanese proposal,
while failing to engage Nasrallah directly in the process of terminating
the war in Lebanon, will label the peace as a connivance of outsiders who
recognize none of the rights and interests of anyone other than Israel
and the United States. That alone will make the peace fragile, and probably
temporary, to say the least.
- The writer is the author of the recently published work,
A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist
on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US
Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Deputy
Director of the Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Planning, and
as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National
War College. He will welcome comment at email@example.com.