Monday, August 07, 2006

Lebanese unhappy with draft UN resolution

The US, France and the UK have agreed on the text of a draft resolution on the crisis between Lebanon and Israel to be put before the Security Council. The text is, it seems, a compromise between the positions of the French and the Americans: the former won a concession in the two-phase strategy adopted (that is, a cessation of hostitilities as the first stage, followed then by a deal on an international peacekeeping force and a buffer zone), whereas the latter got its wish in removing all references to Israeli "disproportionality", and, indeed, in placing the more onerous ceasefire obligations on Hezbollah.

This US-won concession is undoubtedly the most controversial aspect of the draft text. It is contained in Operational Paragraph 1, which notes that "Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations". Of crucial importance here is to note that, while Hezbollah must immediately cease all military operations, the Israeli's are required only to halt "offensive" ones. Given the extent to which the definition of "defensive" has been stretched by the US and UK rhetoric in Iraq, it is small wonder that few on the Lebanese side view this as acceptable.

Nor, I think, should it be assumed that this is simply restating Israel's right to respond to any continuing Hezbollah agression in violation of the resolution, should it be adopted; few if any would hold them bound to a pact that the other side was willfully and materially breaching. Rather, it seems more likely that the wording of this provision has been made quite deliberately in order to allow Israel to continue activities that it sees as being of a "pre-emptive" defensive sort, which would, of course, include any and all attacks on Hezbollah positions and fighters, particularly in, but presumably not limited to, Southern Lebanon. Again, given the extent to which the Israeli's have sought to use that rhetoric to justify almost all of there actions, including the massacre of civilians in Qana, it is not surprising that a "ceasefire" on these terms strikes many as terminally one-sided.

Robert Fisk has an interesting piece in today's Independent outlining precisely why the Lebanese are less than enamoured with these mose recent fruits of Franco-American labour. High on his list of problems is simply the repetition of the same tired old rhetoric that followed the Israeli invasion of 1982, where the ideas of a "buffer zone" and disarmament were also central. Of course, this does not mean that the Lebanese will be able, ultimately, to reject it: on the contrary, the combined powers of the Security Council Members, should they all agree, are likely to be more than sufficient to make it stick. The difficulty is that, the more they have to make it stick, the less likely they are to be able to make it work.

No comments: