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Monday, August 14, 2006

The hudna is nearly three hours old

The hudna is nearly three hours old, and although it is relatively quiet (HaAretz is describing it as "tense calm") , there are already signs of trouble. For those keeping score at home,166 Israelis were killed since the war started - 114 IDF soldiers and 52 civilians.

Already in an interview with al-Jazeera last night, Lebanese Tourism Minister Joe Sarkiss said that the Lebanese army will not deploy in the south unless Hezbullah disarms - and Hezbullah is refusing to disarm. The Lebanese cabinet meeting that was to discuss the deployment still has not taken place, nor has it even been scheduled. HaAretz reports that the meeting was 'torpedoed' by Hezbullah, which refuses to discuss its own disarmament. And lest you believe the stories that there is a 'dispute' between Hezbullah and the rest of the cabinet, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora praised Hezbullah yesterday, saying "The steadfastness of the resistance fighters in the field was very important, as was the steadfastness and unity of the people."

Ted at Israpundit points out that Hezbullah is not a party to the agreement and therefore is under no obligation to disarm.

'Officials close to Ehud Olmert' do not believe that Hezbullah will abide by the hudna. A source close to Olmert said, "When Hizbullah violates the cease-fire, the world will see who the aggressor is and will understand us. We will insist that the agreement be implemented. It's a good agreement for Israel and Hizbullah's opposition is proof." Isn't that what they said about the surrender of Gaza last summer, that when the 'Palestinians' refuse to live in peace, the world will see whom the aggressor is and will understand us? How many Jewish lives did that cost and has the world really understood us yet? (Answers - too many and no).

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the hudna included a clause allowing an international force to be given expanded powers if the agreement were violated. Livni sounds like she needs a lesson in realpolitique: 'Expanded powers' aren't worth very much unless the party who has them is willing to use them. Does Livni really believe that the French or the Italians (under Prodi yet - under Berlusconi there might have been a chance) are going to fight our battles for us?

But as Ted points out, the 'expanded powers' are a figment of Livni's imagination:

The resolution states, “1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;” Although Hezbollah is not bound by the resolution, if it didn’t stop “hostilities”, the only consequence is that the combined forces wouldn’t deploy. The only obligation on Lebanon is to “to support a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution”.

So at best, the agreement would be violated by a non party (if Hezbollah continued hostilities). Contrary to what Livni claims, there is no provision allowing for “an international force to be given expanded powers”. It simply “authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, “

Thus if it is never deployed because Hezbollah hasn’t stopped hostilities, there is nothing for it to do. Furthermore the powers set out here are only to assist Lebanon. UNIFIL can’t act on its own initiative. Thus Livni is pretending that the agreement has been violated. The peg she is hanging her hat on is the expressed intention of the SC “to consider in a later resolution further enhancements to the mandate and other steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution.”

Israel has threatened to retaliate harshly in the event of violations of the hudna by Hezbullah. In the cabinet meeting yesterday, OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin gave the cabinet a pessimistic report about the chances of Hezbullah abiding by the agreement. That pessimism persuaded Transportation Minister (and former Defense Minister and Chief of Staff) Shaul Mofaz to abstain in the cabinet decision endorsing the cease-fire that passed 24-0. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said he voted in favor because he did not believe Hizbullah would abide by it, and then Israel would have international legitimacy to destroy Lebanese infrastructure. Recall that Yishai was one of the abstainers in the smaller 'security cabinet' forum that voted on the ground invasion. Didn't he think we had 'international legitimacy' (whatever that means) to destroy Lebanese infrastructure until now?

But UN Security-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the government over the weekend warning that if one side was fired upon, the other side should not respond except in 'immediate self-defense.' A source in the Prime Minister's Office called Annan's letter unacceptable and said a team was working on a letter in response that would reiterate the IDF's right to respond to Hezbullah if it broke the hudna. So the UN is already setting itself up to condemn Israel at the first opportunity.

In the meantime, the navy and air force are maintaining the siege on Lebanon until its government takes action to control access into the country, as required by the UN's cease-fire resolution.

But the question of what Israel will do if Syria sends weapon convoys into Lebanon to help rehabilitate Hezbullah remains unanswered. "This is a serious question that requires a decision by the diplomatic echelon," the officer said. "We need to prevent the Hezbullah from rebuilding itself. The question is how far are we willing to go to do that." I would hope that if the IDF sees a truck of Syrian weapons on the satellite screen, it will be blown up as soon as it crosses the border into Lebanon - if not sooner.

What I find most frustrating about this entire story is that when Israel finally decided to do something - late on Friday - it was able to reach the Litani River within 48 hours. Why the heck we didn't do that sooner is something the inevitable Investigative Commission will have to take up.


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