Israel Gets Most Of What It Wants, But Will It Get What It Needs?

Well, my gut instinct is that the fighting was stopped a few weeks too early and that the UN effort is doomed to failure, but it looks like there is a ceasefire that’s about to go into effect:

“At the heart of the agreement lies the deployment to southern Lebanon of an international force of up to 15,000 troops, expected to be led by France, with units from Italy and other European nations.

After Lebanese objections to a first resolution last Saturday, these troops will be assigned to UNIFIL – the existing UN peace monitoring operation in Lebanon that was created in 1978.

But the new force will operate under a stronger mandate than the old 2,000-strong UNIFIL, given the authority “to take all necessary action…to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind”, and “to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence”.

The UN force is also tasked with supporting the Lebanese army in that there are no weapons or forces in a zone to the south of the Litani River – which runs 13 miles from the Israeli border – that are not controlled by the Lebanese army.

…The resolution left in an earlier clause objected to by Lebanon which calls for an “immediate cessation” of all Hizbollah attacks but seeks only the end of “offensive military operations” by Israel.

Emyr Jones Parry, the UK ambassador at the UN, said the hope was “that we’ve created enough conditionality, enough of a process, and enough security will be established, that Hizbollah will neither want nor be able” to disrupt the process.

“The first few days are going to be very challenging. Because if they do attack, it opens up a whole can of worms,” he said.

…If the fighting does stop, a second UN resolution on a permanent ceasefire would follow within a month, tackling a range of issues including the release of two Israeli soldiers held by Hizbollah.”

Here’s a little more on what the long term goals of this ceasefire are supposed to be:

“At the heart of the resolution are two elements: It seeks an immediate halt to the fighting that began July 12 when Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli troops along the Blue Line, the U.N.-demarcated border separating Israel; and it spells out a series of steps that would lead to a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution.

That would be done by creating a new buffer zone in south Lebanon “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and UNIFIL” — the acronym of the U.N. force deployed in the region since 1978. The force now has 2,000 troops; the resolution would expand it to a maximum of 15,000.

South Lebanon had been under de facto Hezbollah control for several years until Israeli forces occupied parts of it after the start of the fighting last month. The political solution would include implementation of previous Security Council resolutions calling for Hezbollah’s disarmament.”

Long story short, Israel pulls out of Southern Lebanon and 15k European troops along with the Lebanese army move in. Under the ceasefire, Hezbollah isn’t supposed to fire at Israel under any circumstances, but Israel can return fire. Also, Chebaa Farms and the kidnapped Israel soldiers aren’t even being discussed yet.

Is this close to what Israel says that they wanted? Well, their main demand, since shortly after the war started, was a buffer zone in Southern Lebanon with international troops and the Lebanese army guarding it along with the disarmament of Hezbollah. Ostensibly, they’re getting their biggest and most important demand met.

Unfortunately, I’m deeply skeptical about whether any UN Force or the Lebanese army is willing to fight against Hezbollah to keep them from rearming and/or attacking Israel. Moreover, Iran and Syria have been pulling Hezbollah’s strings and any sort of long term compromise that doesn’t force them to pay a terrible penalty for Hezbollah’s actions isn’t getting to the root of the problem.

PS: A lot of people on the right side of the blogosphere are calling this resolution a big win for Hezbollah. I think it’s a bit murkier than that. After all, Israel did enormous damage to Hezbollah and their assets. Moreover, the UN resolution specifically calls for Hezbollah to be disarmed and for them to lose military control of Southern Lebanon. On top of all that, Israel still retains the right to attack Hezbollah for “defensive” reasons while Hezbollah is supposed to be constrained from attacking Israel at all.

So, why is this perceived by some people as such a big loss? Part of the problem is that there has been an enormous amount of mission creep since the whole conflict started. As I wrote back on July 31,

“There’s a lot of talk about what Israel is trying to accomplish with these attacks on Lebanon. My original assumption was that they simply wanted to kill Hezbollah fighters, destroy and degrade their infrastructure, and punish the civilians in Lebanon that are supporting them. That’s a worthy mission and one that Israel has been accomplishing.

But, since the fight has started we’ve heard about much loftier goals. Israel is going to eradicate Hezbollah? That seems unlikely since the Hezbos can simply disperse into the population. Israel wants an international force or the Lebanese army to come down and police the border? Since neither group is going to be willing to fight Hezbollah, any force on the border either turns into de facto human shields for the Hezbos, like the UN, or they’ll just be there until Hezbollah is ready for another round of fighting and tells them to leave.”

Actually, I think Israel has accomplished more than most people realize, although I have extremely low expectations for how effective this whole UN ceasefire proposal is going to be. But, however it works out in the end, since Israel wasn’t willing to move on Syria, it was almost certain that some variation on this whole Lebanese Army/European peacekeeper force was going to be tried. If, and likely when, it fails, maybe there will be a little bit more serious thought given to making Hezbollah’s puppet masters in Syria and Iran pay a price for the actions of their minions.

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