French Proposal For Lebanon Ceasefire Good, But Not Likely To Be Adopted
As war rages on in the Middle East, the French proposal for a ceasefire seems to me to have merit. But how likely is it to be adopted?
The French proposal in the U.N. Security Council calls, according to the New York Times today, for an immediate halt in fighting, the release of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, the disarming of all militias in Lebanon, and the creation of a buffer zone in southern Lebanon free of any military personnel except the Lebanese Army and United Nations-mandated international forces.
The trouble with this is that there is no sign yet that Hezbollah is prepared to be disarmed, and the Israeli campaign to do so has not so far been sucessful. In fact, Hezbollah seems due shortly to get reinforcements from Iran, where reports say this morning 2,500 "volunteers" are awaiting final orders to depart. Advanced Iranian parties are already in Lebanon.
Hezbollah has gained so much prestige by fighting the Israelis effectively that it may stand to inherit even more power within Lebanon than the so-called Lebanese government. Indeed, if the French send troops, it is hard to see how they could be successful without making Lebanon a kind of protectorate. That the French would be really prepared to fight to pacify the country is open to the greatest doubt.
The Israelis, with American backing, also oppose an immediate ceasefire, with the Israeli military arguing that more fighting could weaken Hezbollah to the point it might accept disarmament.
So, as has been the case since the beginning of the present conflict, July 12, there is an international standoff, with chances of further regionalization of the war not negligable.
The issue here that will not go away is the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas-al Queda expressed goal of destroying the state of Israel as against a nuclear-armed Israel's determination to remain a viable state. It is hard to see how those differences could be negotiated to a successful resolution in the near future.
The "cut and run" Democrats in Washington are, meanwhile, stepping up their demands for an American withdrawal from Iraq. These will only increase if Sen. Joseph Lieberman is defeated by the anti-war Ned Lamont next week in the Connecticut Democratic primary. But there is no way that President George W. Bush will agree to even a phased withdrawal before he leaves office, still nearly two and a half years away.
So what is the prospect? More war in the Middle East and Iraq, with terrorism a growing threat in Europe and the U.S. That is the grim, but I believe, unavoidable truth.