Monday, August 14, 2006
As I indicated in my previous post, the Israel-Hizballah cease-fire resolution (UNSC #1701) has me waiting: was Israel crazy to accept it, or is Israel crazy like a fox?
The initial news reports this morning don't answer the question yet. For example, this seems nuts:
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, addressing the Labor faction in the Knesset on Monday afternoon, said that "the cease-fire is being maintained, and the government is working on coordinating with UNIFIL on handing over territory. Israel has no intention of getting 'stuck in the mud' of Lebanon."Transferring control to UNIFIL?!? How on Earth can anyone trust them with anything?
Senior IDF officers were meeting with officers from the Lebanese army and UNIFIL at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing to discuss the transfer of control in southern Lebanon.
This doesn't inspire much more confidence:
Convoys of weapons entering Lebanon from Syria will not be targeted by the IDF under the regulations of the newly brokered UN cease-fire, a high-ranking army officer said on Monday.In other words, Hizballah now has a chance to re-arm, exactly as we feared. From the IDF's perspective, and from Israel's, this is insane.
According to the officer, soldiers were deployed in Lebanon in defensive positions and would only engage Hizbullah gunmen if they felt they were under immediate threat. Trucks carrying weapons do not pose an immediate threat and therefore would not be targeted.
"The idea is to open fire at Hizbullah only if soldiers are faced with an immediate threat. Trucks carrying weapons do not fall under that category," he said.
The officer added that soldiers deployed in Lebanon were in the position to begin an immediate withdrawal if ordered to do so or to press forward and occupy additional territory.
On the other hand, there's this:
If Hizbullah fired Katyusha rockets into Israel after the ceasefire went into effect, the IDF, the high-ranking officer said, would see itself allowed to bomb targets throughout Lebanon, including in Beirut. "If Hizbullah breaks the ceasefire, we will see ourselves allowed to respond," the officer said.In other words, Israel is waiting for Hizballah to break the cease-fire by firing rockets into northern Israel, for which the local residents remain prepared. If they do, Israeli gloves come off. If they don't, Israel has quiet on the northern front, which is part, at least, of what they wanted all along.
It seems that Israel isn't above goading Hizballah to break the cease-fire either -- good for them!
Two hours before the cease-fire went into effect, the IAF dropped leaflets on central Beirut Monday, warning it will retaliate for any attack launched from Lebanon.Finally, Israel continues to be dug in throughout southern Lebanon, until (and unless) replaced by an international force:
Addressed to Lebanese citizens, one leaflet said Hizbullah serves the interests of its Iranian and Syrian patrons and has "brought destruction, displacement and death."
"Will you be able to pay this price again?" it asked.
"The Israel Defense Forces will return and act with the required force against any terrorist act that is launched from Lebanon against the State of Israel," it said.
Late Sunday night, officials indicated that the Navy and Air Force would not lift the siege on Lebanon until its government took action to control access into the country.All five links, above, come from the same Jerusalem Post article. (Talk about your mixed messages...)
So with soldiers holding a line along the Litani River, the IDF is now waiting for 15,000 UN observers to deploy in southern Lebanon, together with the Lebanese army, as stipulated under the cease-fire agreement.
Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told the Post Sunday that the multinational force was expected to begin deploying in the coming days and that there was a chance that the IDF would begin withdrawing from Lebanon by the end of the week.
Prime Minister Olmert's office is on record saying that they expect Hizballah to violate the cease-fire. At this point, of course, it is to Hizballah's advantage to stop firing rockets at Israel, resupply from Iran via Syria, and resume when they're ready. (They may also be able to keep their own PR going with the occasional attack against Israeli soldiers still in Lebanon, gambling that this will not be seen by Israel as enough of an excuse to start the war again.)
The Lebanese army is another wildcard. They're supposed to deploy in southern Lebanon; but their commanding general has gone on record, more than once, saying he won't do so if his troops have to confront an armed Hizballah... and Hizballah has gone on record saying they won't disarm.
Theoretically, Hizballah could retreat north of the Litani river, maintaining the fragile status quo -- they can re-arm, the illusion of a cease-fire is maintained, and so on. (If Hizballah remains in southern Lebanon and refuses to turn in its weapons, that in itself is a violation of the cease-fire -- but it's unclear who will bell the cat. Only the IDF is willing, it seems, to actually fight Hizballah.) But would Hizballah leave all of southern Lebanon under the control of Israeli troops and an international force? I doubt it highly -- again, exerting control and confronting Israel are Hizballah's very reasons for existence.
Time will tell. Personally, I don't think Hizballah will hold out very long; sooner or later, a rocket barrage will be launched at Israel. But perhaps they'll surprise me and show restraint, just as Israel surprised them by approving the cease-fire.
So far, the main losers in all this are the three Israeli soldiers held hostage -- one by Hamas in Gaza, two by Hizballah in Lebanon. They are the reason this whole thing started... and they are still waiting.