Israel has warned Lebanon that a failure to disarm Hezbollah will lead to a war with Lebanon if Hezbollah attacks Israel again. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister, told the Washington Post that the stakes will go up considerably if the terrorists attempt more provocations along the Blue Line:
The Lebanese government must fully implement a recent U.N. resolution requiring the disarming of the militant Shiite group Hezbollah or Israel will be less reluctant to attack the Lebanese state if Hezbollah resumes hostilities, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said yesterday.
Livni, in an interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Post, said that when the fighting began in July after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers, Israel heeded calls from world officials not to undermine the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora because the formation of the government and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops was an “achievement of the international community.”
Israel launched attacks across southern Lebanon, Hezbollah’s base, and it demolished bridges to Syria and bombed Beirut’s airport. Livni said Israel’s efforts to keep the military campaign limited made it more difficult to achieve its objectives.
“The result is it was more difficult to find these terrorists among civilians, compared to attacking a weak Lebanon,” Livni said. “We could have done Lebanon in a few days, I think, if we had decided to attack Lebanon as a state.”
“Now there is a need to implement fully and completely 1701,” Livni said, referring to the resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council that led to the cease-fire between Israeli and Hezbollah forces. “If Israel will be attacked, this is the Lebanese responsibility.”
This clearly escalates the problems facing the Siniora government in Beirut. Israel has now explicitly made the point that Siniora’s sovereignty requires him to take control of all Lebanese forces, including armed militias that want to make war on his neighbors. Livni notes that the reluctance to undermine Siniora’s democratically-elected government will come to an end in the next rocket attack, and Siniora will pay the price for any act of war in the future.
That warning was not just for Siniora’s benefit, either. Several countries have troops in Lebanon now, helping to implement those portions of 1701 that they like while ignoring others. Kofi Annan and all of the contributing nations (along with Lebanon) have claimed that they are not responsible for disarming Hezbollah. The Israelis have responded by assuring them that an attack by Hezbollah on Israel will be considered an act of war — and that if their troops happen to be in the way, then they’d better leave or take cover. If Israel has diminishing reluctance to sack Lebanon, then troops who lack the resolve to disarm terrorists will not present much deterrence, either.
It’s hard to misunderstand talk this blunt and unvarnished. If the UN and the international forces cannot keep Hezbollah from rearming and starting their provocations, Israel will go to war with Lebanon itself and will not restrain themselves in the manner of the last war. Ehud Olmert at least learned that much in the previous conflict, and his government will be much less open to entreaties from international organizations that refuse to hold terrorists and their enablers to the terms of the cease-fires they impose on Israel.
Perhaps this blunt language will motivate the UN to implement the terms of their own pronouncements with at least a modicum of vigor. If not, it’s not like they weren’t warned.