The next time the UN Security Council needs to come up with a resolution
it should get in touch with me. My building's watchman and his streetwise pals
from Upper Egypt could cobble together a far more effective ceasefire than that
contained in Resolution 1701.
Besides being heavily weighted in Israel's favour, thanks to US
machinations, it does not stipulate the return of Lebanese prisoners nor
resolve the Sheba'a Farms issue. Thus, there is little incentive for Hezbollah
to wave goodbye to its weapons and take up potato growing. Further, the vague
way the resolution is drawn guarantees failure.
The Lebanese army, in partnership with a beefed-up UNIFIL, is mandated
to take over the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River, but
when? Estimates as to when a UN force can be deployed vary from 10 days to more
than a month.
Israel, which currently has 30,000 troops north of the Blue Line, says
it isn't going anywhere until the foreign cavalry arrives. Hezbollah says its
fighters aren't going anywhere until the Israeli army departs. Stalemate!
Does anyone believe the two sides will while away those weeks organising
friendly games of football or hanging out together over coffee and shisha?
There are those who will say Hezbollah fighters must withdraw to the north, but
I doubt such voices realise that almost the whole of south Lebanon supports
Practically every family in the south has someone who is currently
fighting. Is it realistic to expect thousands of men to leave their homes and
loved ones to the mercy of Israel?
If the resolution's sponsors had been sincere, they would have ensured
an immediate unconditional ceasefire with Israel pulling out its forces from
As things stand, the Israelis are now occupying south Lebanon with the
UN's apparent blessing. At the same time, if Hezbollah retaliates it will be
accused of violating Resolution 1701.
Any fool can see this scenario is a recipe for disaster except,
apparently, UN Security Council members strong on mutual back-slapping but
short on common sense.
The Lebanese government's eagerness to accept a ceasefire is
understandable, but whereas the seven-point plan initially fielded by Lebanese
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was feasible, Resolution 1701 is hardly worth the
paper it's written on.
On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to the parties to
stop fighting immediately in keeping with the spirit of the truce. Sounds good,
but as a backdrop to his plea, Israel was stepping up bombardments while its
army was pushing its way north.
This schizoid escalation took place after the Israeli cabinet approved
the ceasefire, which speaks volumes about the Israeli government's true intent.
It's clear that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is more interested in
securing his tenure than preventing further loss of life and property.
Israelis are angry at his inability to produce a definitive win.
A poll in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz shows that only 46 percent of
Israelis support the way the war is being waged.
Top Israeli generals blame Olmert for dithering over launching a massive
US President George W. Bush is said to be furious that America's client
state failed to finish the job.
If a report in the Guardian is true, no wonder! It quotes the
award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh as saying Israel and the
US planned the bombing campaign months before Hezbollah abducted the two
Israeli soldiers. According to Hersh's sources, the plan was drawn-up to
"ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a
potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear
This explains Olmert's last minute desperation to come up with something
that looks like a win, even if this means going on a mad 11th-hour bombing
spree and hiding Israeli casualty figures.
At the time of writing, there are cracks within the Lebanese cabinet
with some members keen to disarm Hezbollah and others reluctant to do so.
The Lebanese government must be careful how it treads from here on. Its
army isn't capable of defending the country and UNIFIL does not have a mandate
or the weapons to do so.
Hezbollah is the only deterrent. Lebanon has to prevent the Israelis
from marching in again later on down the road and especially since the US
plotted to ensure Lebanon's isolation from Syria.
In this case, the Lebanese government should work with Hezbollah rather
than against it while rebuffing demands from the White House and its Lebanese
emissaries to defang the militia.
What is stopping Hezbollah guerrillas from being subsumed into the
Lebanese army? Together they could form an elite brigade of commandos or a unit
on the lines of Britain's SAS.
Hezbollah could also be used to train the Lebanese military in
asymmetric warfare that has become the talk of military academies around the
These are better alternatives than the cold-shouldering of Hezbollah,
which could eventually lead to another civil war, especially in light of the
fact it is supported by 87 per cent of all Lebanese.
In essence, Lebanon has two choices: to legitimise Hezbollah's military
wing under the umbrella of the Lebanese army or confront it.
Israel has two choices too: continue lashing out with its familiar
hubris or realise that the only road to security is compromise and dialogue.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on
Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.