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July 29, 2006
Let Slip The Doves?

Events have moved quickly since last night, and Condoleezza Rice's return to the Middle East may result in a cease fire rather quickly. After Hezbollah indicated last night that they would be willing to eventually disarm as part of an overall settlement over the Israeli-Lebanese border issues, Rice called the offer a "positive step" -- and Israel has just stated that it will not insist on Hezbollah's disarmament as a prerequisite to a cease-fire:

En route to a new round of Middle East negotiations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday that she was encouraged by Hezbollah's general agreement to disarm and accept an international force in Lebanon, which she called a "positive step" that also strengthens the Lebanese government in the illusive search for a cease-fire.

"Obviously we are all trying to get to a cease-fire as quickly as possible, so I'll take this as a positive step," Rice told reporters on her plane flying from Malaysia to a refueling stop in Qatar. "I think there are a lot of elements that are coming together."

That brought the softening of the Israeli position:

Israel will not demand the immediate disarming of Hizbollah as part of a deal to end the current fighting in Lebanon, a senior Israeli foreign ministry official said on Saturday. ...

The foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel would demand that the proposed peacekeeping force in south Lebanon keep Hizbollah away from the Israeli border and prevent the group from replenishing its stockpile of rockets from Syria and Iran.

The official told Reuters that Israel was seeking a commitment to "start the process of implementing"
U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for disarming Hizbollah.

"But disarming Hizbollah now is not what Israel is demanding," the official said, adding that "disarming Hizbollah will not be part of the mandate for the (peacekeeping) mission."

This could start a process that will reverse the actions of the last two weeks. Israel has tried this before and failed to defeat Hezbollah, even while occupying southern Lebanon for eighteen years. They're not anxious to do that again; many believe that occupation to be Israel's Viet Nam. The Lebanese would like to get rid of Israel in that region, and they know now that they can't do that while Hezbollah remains armed. Hezbollah, which assured the Saniora government that the mission would be some kind of milk run, now understands that their political position within Lebanon is more precarious than ever. And everyone knew that an international force would not actively disarm Hezbollah, because no one would send troops to go to war on behalf of Israel.

If it worked, the Israelis would see Hezbollah retreat behind a security zone, perhaps the Latani, allowing the Lebanese Army and a stronger international force to replace them and act as a buffer. At that point, the Lebanese would disarm Hezbollah while Beirut and Jerusalem worked out the final details of the border issues and restore diplomatic relations, a la Jordan and Egypt.

That, however, is a mighty big if, as a number of commenters pointed out last night and today on my earlier post. Rick at Right Wing Nuthouse calls it a "crock", and he may well be right -- certainly history has shown them to be ruthless and untrustworthy. However, as far as I know, Hezbollah has never made a public offer to disarm themselves under any circumstances except the elimination of Israel from the Middle East. Just floating that proposal makes them appear too weak to continue fighting against Israel, politically and/or militarily. And their terrorist leadership has gone very quiet lately, especially Hassan Nasrallah, last reported to be hiding behind the skirts of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It's an opening, and it's worth investigating.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 29, 2006 11:03 AM

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» Rocket Science on the Lebanon Border from Conservative Cat
Over on MSNBC the top story is Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah's latest explanation of his strategy in the Lebanon War. On Fox, he's making threats, On CNN, his tirade is four paragraphs down in a general story on the war,... [Read More]

Tracked on July 29, 2006 3:52 PM


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