A Project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society

U.S. has consensus for U.N. Resolution On Lebanon, Rice says

Wall Street Journal

July 31, 2006

The U.S. said it had consensus for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Lebanon, including a cease-fire to be passed this week, but left contentious details of its proposal unclear.

The push toward a diplomatic end to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah came as fighting continued. Israeli planes hit targets in southern Lebanon on Monday after Hezbollah guerrillas blasted an Israeli tank and injured three Israeli soldiers, breaking a brief respite in 20 days of fighting. Before the fighting resumed, pickup trucks and cars loaded with people streamed north as thousands of civilians trapped in south Lebanon's war zone for three weeks took advantage of the brief lull to escape.

Israel had said, in announcing the halt to airstrikes earlier Monday, that it would suspend that pledge to end air strikes for 48-hours depending on "operational developments" in Lebanon. After Hezbollah guerrillas hit an Israeli tank near Taibeh with an anti-tank missile, Israel said it carried out the airstrikes to protect its ground troops. Already, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz has said Israel plans to "expand and strengthen" its attack on Hezbollah, diminishing hopes that the 48-hour halt in airstrikes could be turned into a longer term cease-fire. Fighting was heavy in the northeast corner of south Lebanon around Taibeh and other border villages. Constant Israeli artillery blasts -- not covered under the air halt -- shook the hills. Hezbollah guerrillas in the area fired a volley of rockets at the nearby Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona, their first since Israel's suspension began. No casualties were reported.

Still, the suspension of the air campaign brought relative quiet to much of southern Lebanon.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believed there was broad consensus in Lebanon, Israel and the international community on what should be in the resolution, based on three main elements: a cease-fire, the political principles needed for a long-term settlement and authorization of an international force to deploy to South Lebanon.

The U.S. proposal would also require that armed groups should be prohibited in the area; that there should be an international embargo on the delivery of weapons to groups other than the Lebanese government; and that the international force should help the Lebanese government to disarm militias.

However, Ms. Rice didn't elaborate on the political elements of a settlement, including such contentious issues as the return to Lebanon of the territory known as Chebaa farms. "This morning, as I head back to Washington, I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent ceasefire and a lasting settlement," Ms. Rice said in a statement before leaving Jerusalem. "I am convinced we can achieve both this week."

Whether the temporary truce holds at all depends on Hezbollah and the Israelis. It may also be difficult to secure the agreement of both sides to a ceasefire under the terms Ms. Rice set out.

Ms. Rice leaves after start-and-stop shuttle diplomacy in the region, as she tried to secure broad agreement between the Lebanese government, including the political wing of Hezbollah, and Israel on the elements for a ceasefire. But her efforts came to an abrupt halt on Sunday, when the deaths of dozens of children in an Israeli rocket attack sparked international outrage and led Lebanon's government to say it couldn't continue negotiations until a cease-fire was in place.

Applying intense pressure to Israel's leadership, Ms. Rice secured its agreement to a fixed 48-hour suspension of air attacks, and a renewable 24-hour period to give civilians wishing to leave the battle zone between the Israeli army and Hezbollah militias a chance to get out safely. Ms. Rice said she hoped that a 24-hour period of safe passage agreed to by Israel could be renewed.

Thousands of civilians trapped in south Lebanon's war zone for three weeks made an exodus for the north, taking advantage of the pause in airstrikes to flee.

Israel agreed to the 48-hour suspension following an outpouring of international outrage over a strike during the weekend that killed dozens of civilians, including about 40 children. Israeli and American officials portrayed the move as a pause to investigate the "tragic incident" in the southern Lebanese village of Qana, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, who was here accompanying Ms. Rice. He stressed in a statement that Israel "has of course reserved the right to take action against targets preparing attacks against it." An Israeli government official said the suspension applied solely to "aerial activity." American officials noted that it wasn't intended to restrict Israel's use of artillery, tanks or small arms.

And a top Israeli official said Monday that the country's war in Lebanon is not over yet. "I'm convinced that we won't finish this war until it's clear that Hezbollah has no more abilities to attack Israel from south Lebanon. This is what we are striving for," Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio.

The bombing in Qana, the bloodiest single incident in the three-week-old war, appeared to be a diplomatic turning point, pushing the Lebanese government to issue its strongest condemnation yet of Israel, and its strongest rhetorical embrace of Hezbollah.

The U.N. Security Council expressed "shock and distress" at the Qana attack, but avoided any condemnation of Israel or call for an immediate truce. But as the U.N. debates the Lebanese situation this week, the discussion will likely point up a division reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war -- with the U.S. and Britain pitted against other council members.

At issue is at what point to demand a cease-fire in the fighting -- immediately, as France and most other countries prefer, or only after a broader attempt to address the underlying causes of the conflict is in place, as advocated by the U.S. and Britain. "I know that there are differences between Security Council members over the precise sequence of events; I beg you to set those differences aside," Mr. Annan told Sunday's Security Council session.

Even if a majority of Security Council members embrace a resolution opposed by the U.S. or Israel, it would have little concrete impact. As a practical matter, the U.S., as one of five permanent members of the body, has the power to veto a resolution it doesn't like. And if a U.N. resolution passes, Israel can ignore it. But the U.S. and Israel risk deeper diplomatic isolation if they choose those paths

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NGOWatch is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of NGO accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.