Friday, August 18, 2006

Reading Between the Lines of the Cease Fire


Implementation! Implementation! Implementation! That's the name of the game regarding UN Resolution 1701, passed by the Security Council on Friday and approved near-unanimously by Israel's cabinet.

While Israel did not achieve the kind of dramatic victory of the Six Day War, the crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973 or the ousting of Arafat from Lebanon in 1982, the potentially changed dynamic in south Lebanon is a substantial achievement, if implemented.

There's room for criticism of the resolution and of the outcome of the conflict to this point:
1. It doesn't provide an explicit mechanism for the return of Israel's kidnapped soldiers
2. No mechanism for the dismantling of Hezbollah.
3. Nasrallah is standing
4. Rockets were still hitting Israeli cities

Still, Israel got a lot of what it was seeking in the UN resolution.
1. It blames the conflict on Hezbollah
2. It provides for a beefed up international force with authority to prevent the introduction of hostile forces into the area the force will control between Israel's Northern border and the Litani river.
3. Hezbollah, unlike before July 12, will not be in control in southern Lebanon where it had a state within a state. The international force and the Lebanese army will be authorized to prevent Hezbollah's reentry with arms into the south
4. Israel doesn't have to redeploy until the international force and the Lebanese army begin the process of taking over Southern Lebanon
5. The force will be authorized to prevent the reintroduction of arms to Hezbolah (from Iran and Syria)
6. Israel has a right to defend itself if Hezbollah breaks the cease-fire

The resolution happened because Israel caused significant damage to Hezbollah, because the US
supported Israel despite some bumps along the way, because the Lebanese government, irrespective of its strong condemnation of Israel, recognized the damage to the country caused by Hezbollah's aggression, and because the international community was forced to act out of fear of what Israel would do in order to defend itself and its citizens. Indeed, the very complaints about what Israel was doing to Lebanon's infrastructure, though exaggerated, serve Israel's deterrence capacity by convincing both Israel's enemies such as Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, as well as the international community such as the EU, that Israel will do whatever it takes to ensure its security.

The key now is whether Israel's significant gains on paper will be translated into facts on the ground. While there is justified historic suspicion about the role of UNIFIL and the Lebanese army, their fear of even greater destruction may concentrate their minds. If so, then the balance in the region will have shifted in the favor of Israel, the moderate Arab states, and the US against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. This despite the rhetoric being bandied about of a Hezbollah victory and a gain for the radicals. If it is not seriously implemented, the extremists will be emboldened and more war, more serious war will undoubtedly loom in the future.

Our task is not to badmouth the resolution nor to join in the counterproductive and misguided criticism of Israel that is coming from some quarters of the Jewish community. Our focus must be on Israel's very real gains, the need for responsible implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 and for the right of Israel to defend itself in the strongest way should Hezbollah, Syria and Iran violate the terms of the resolution.