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August 6, 2006
Israel Plays It Cool, Lebanon Plays Into Their Hands

It looks as if Israel has a plan to win the diplomatic war, and Lebanon's Hezbollah-backed politicians are determined to let them do it. After the US and France agreed on a cease-fire proposal for the UN Security Council, many thought that the resolution allowed Hezbollah too much leeway to regroup and rearm. Israel, however, quickly embraced the proposal -- and Hezbollah jumped at the bait:

Senior government officials in Israel expressed satisfaction at the draft of the UN Security Council resolution on Lebanon Saturday night, saying it safeguarded a number of key Israeli interests - foremost that the IDF would remain in south Lebanon until an international force arrives.

The US and France agreed on a draft Saturday that calls for a full cessation of the fighting but preserves Israel's right to respond if attacked. The Security Council was scheduled to debate the resolution later Saturday in New York, and it was expected to come to a full vote "in another couple of days."

Israel expressed satisfaction immediately with the terms, and added that they did not expect Hezbollah to stop shooting rockets into Israel. Therefore, they said, the IDF would continue to attack launching positions until Hezbollah halted its attacks on Israeli civilians. Hezbollah, for its part, made sure that everyone knew it had no intention of complying with the UN resolution even if passed:

The Lebanese parliament speaker, who is considered close to Hizbullah, said Sunday that the US-French draft UN cease-fire resolution was not in Lebanon's interests and would be rejected by all Lebanese people unless it included the government's plan for ending the fighting.

"Lebanon, all of Lebanon, rejects any talks and or any draft resolution that does not include the seven-point government framework" drawn up last week in an emergency Cabinet meeting, Nabih Berri said at a news conference in Beirut. The Lebanese plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops.

"We always spoke about an immediate cease fire. We never spoke about ending military operations because this is in a way like legitimatizing the occupation, as if the war is being legitimatized," Berri said in fiery remarks before opening the floor to questions.

If Berri has that much concern over the legitimization of war, then Lebanon should have disarmed Hezbollah years ago. Beirut allowed the terrorists to remain heavily armed with rockets and missiles, and stood by while Hezbollah conducted attacks on Israel for years. The provocation last month was nothing new, except for the crass and exploitative move of abducting Israeli soldiers to free Lebanese prisoners, some cold-blooded murderers, from Israeli jails. They also killed IDF troops in that action, all of which are acts of war, and since Beirut tolerated Hezbollah's armed presence in southern Lebanon, they have responsibility for that act of war.

More to the point, however, Hezbollah and its political lackeys like Berri fail to grasp the overall diplomatic dynamic. The Israelis want to continue this fight until they have destroyed Hezbollah. The IDF succeeded in ejecting the PLO from Lebanon in the early months of its 1982 invasion, but made the mistake of sticking around afterwards, a mistake they're unlikely to repeat now. They see a similar opportunity here, but the international community will not willingly give them the time they need to do so. The Israelis know that the UN will eventually force them to stop short of their overall goals, and they want to get as much accomplished as possible.

This resolution should have provided the brakes on the Israelis. However, Hezbollah and Lebanon apparently have no comprehension that this UNSC proposal restrains Israel, and so they will reject it out of hand -- giving Israel even more time to continue dismantling Hezbollah in the south. Apparently, Berri and his Hezbollah handlers want a complete and explicit victory, and they still don't realize that they forfeited that when they commited the acts of war on an Israel that had tired of playing tit-for-tat games on their northern border.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 6, 2006 9:46 AM

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