The United States and France have developed a plan for the Hezbollah-Lebanon-Israel conflict which aims at getting a full cease-fire from all parties, in order to get a working border. The Washington Post reports about it here.
While I think it’s a good thing that the international community is beginning to look at solutions, this particular proposal doesn’t look that likely to fly. That is unfortunate, in particular for all civilians who suffer terrible losses on both sides of the border. Diplomats seem to realise where the main problem lies:
Diplomats cautioned that they face an uphill battle to persuade Hezbollah and its key foreign backers, Iran and Syria, to release their grip on a strip of Lebanon that has enabled them to attack Israel for more than two decades.
That won’t happen, and it seems that this particular proposal is too strong on the Hezbollah to pass the Security Council. This means that a weaker proposal will emerge, and that means that the Council will decide on measures that will do nothing to ensure the security of anyone (except possibly Iran’s and Hezbollah’s ability to continue their campaign). That could, in the long run, prove worse than getting nothing at all.
I think my previous analysis of the situation holds up pretty well. This means that what the UN should do is to call for an Israeli cease-fire accompanied by sending numerous troops to southern Lebanon, with offensive capabilities and with the mission to disarm the Hezbollah using whatever means necessary. It should also demand the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. This should make it tougher for the Hezbollah to win the media war (which journalists happily help them do right now), and offering Israeli cease-fire in exchange for the soldiers eases some pressure off the Lebanese government. At the same time a sufficently strong UN force, with the correct capabilities, should make it possible for Israel to agree without feeling that they’re giving up too much safety.
Going light on the Lebanese government does not mean that it lacks responsibility for the current situation. In not complying with the UN resolution demanding that the Hezbollah is to be disarmed, it carries some of the blame. However in order to get something working it needs to be provided with a way out that doesn’t cut its head off, so it’s a pragmatic and sensible path to walk.
However, given the discussions about the US and French proposal, which doesn’t even do all this, one should not hope for too much. That is a tragedy, and leaves few good options (in the short run — in the long run it is Iran that need to be dealt with, as I wrote a week ago). Not getting a resolution of the kind that I ask for the only party in the conflict that would be looking for some sort of peace and that also has the ability to do something different is Israel. The Hizbollah (and therefore Iran and Syria) don’t mind the current developement, and the Lebanese government is too weak to do anything about it if they wanted to, which we don’t know if it wants. So, if the needed international solution doesn’t happen, what should Israel do? As always a tough question to answer without the 20-20 vision of hindsight, but I think it’s clear that current tactics aren’t going to work. It causes too many civilian losses. The main blame should be directed at Hezbollah who cowardly hides among ordinary men, women and children, but even so the losses the bombings leads to are too high to be acceptable. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should rely less on airstrikes and instead use more of targeted killings (where possible) and ground troops. It would be more costly for the Israeli army, but with the situation being what it is Mr Olmert has to accept that. It would be morally better, and it would also be strategically better.
It’s a depressing situation. One would like to hope that the international community actually does what it has to for once, but I fear such hopes would be in vain. And even if they did the true engine of conflict in the region — Iran — would still remain to be dealt with.