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August 5, 2006
France, US Agree On Cease-Fire Formulation

France and the US have reached accord on the wording of a UN cease-fire proposal for the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. It calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities by Hezbollah, which started the conflict, and allows Israel to respond if Hezbollah does not comply:

The United States and France agreed Saturday on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for a "full cessation" of fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, but would allow Israel to defend itself if attacked.

The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, "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."

That language would be a major victory for Israel, which has insisted it must have the right to respond if Hezbollah launches missiles against it. France and many other nations had demanded an immediate halt to violence without conditions as a way to push the region back toward stability.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and French President Jacques Chirac's office confirmed that agreement had been reached. The full 15-nation Security Council was to meet later Saturday to discuss the resolution, and it was likely to be adopted in the next couple of days, Bolton said.

France lost the manuevering room to dictate Israel's position when their foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, heralded Hezbollah's sponsor Iran as a "stabilizing force" in the region. Douste-Blazy then had to backpedal furiously when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly called for Israel's destruction days later and told Muslim nations that the cease-fire France was peddling amounted to a good first step. Iran embarrassed France further yesterday by publicy announcing that it had armed Hezbollah with rockets and missiles in the past.

The cease-fire proposal addresses that very issue. It demands that Lebanon ensure that no non-state militias purchase arms, which means that Beirut has to attend to its borders. They will have the responsibility to keep Syria and Iran from resupplying the terrorist group, and failure makes them responsible for attacks on Israel.

South of the Litani, Lebanon would then become a demilitarized zone. The UNIFIL contingent still in the area would stay long enough to verify that the cease-fire had taken place, and then the UN would send a larger and presumably competent peacekeeping force into the area. Their job would be to support the Lebanese Army in assuming military control all the way to the Blue Line. Once that happened, then the UN could start brokering the other issues involved in the conflict, such as Shebaa Farms and the prisoners captured by both sides.

It sounds intelligent and rational, and it places the onus on Hezbollah, where it belongs. They started this war, and either they have to stop or the Lebanese have to stop them. The Israelis will not depart Lebanon under fire this time, nor should they.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 5, 2006 12:17 PM

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