Monday, July 31, 2006

Israel's aims in the current conflict with Hezbollah

An analysis from BICOM on Israeli aims in the current conflict

A diplomatic exit from the conflict: the requirements for a resolution

As the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah continues into its third week, determined diplomatic activity is taking place with the intention of bringing hostilities to a conclusion in the shortest possible time. There are media reports of a crystallising plan, which may form the basis of a future ceasefire. As the possible basis for ending the violence takes shape, it is worth recalling and clarifying Israel's key aims in the current round of conflict with Hezbollah. This article will outline these aims and will include a brief discussion of the initial details of the current ceasefire plan, in light of them.

The current crisis, as is known, began on 12 July with an unprovoked Hezbollah attack, in which three IDF soldiers were killed and two abducted. This act of terrorism, carried out on Israeli sovereign territory, was not an isolated incident. Rather, it formed an extreme manifestation of a problem that has been growing on Israel's border with Lebanon since Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon in May 2000: south Lebanon has become a Hezbollah-controlled region, a 'state within a state' serving the strategic goals of the Iranian-backed terror organisation. Unhindered by the government in Beirut, Hezbollah has built up a formidable arsenal of missiles and rockets, supplied by Iran and Syria, which puts the entire north of Israel under direct threat.

Facing this reality, a key Israeli goal in the current round of conflict is to permanently defuse this threat, by ensuring that the diplomatic outcome to the fighting includes the removal of Hezbollah from the Israeli-Lebanese border area. As a result of the determined action undertaken by the IDF since the commencement of its operations in Lebanon, Hezbollah's deployment along the Israeli-Lebanese border has been seriously degraded. But this situation can only be made permanent by future arrangements that will hand over the control of this area to the Lebanese government, conceivably with the assistance and involvement of an international force.

The second Israeli goal in the operation in Lebanon is to ensure, once Hezbollah is no longer present on the border, that the terror organisation is not able to begin a process of rearming. To achieve this goal, it will not be sufficient simply to assist the Lebanese government with imposing its sovereignty throughout Lebanon. Hezbollah is supplied with long-range Iranian missiles that were provided with the active assistance of Syria. Preventing any future use of these weapons will mean the involvement of any international force in the careful monitoring of the smuggling routes along Lebanon's eastern border with Syria. These are the main supply routes used for the transport of arms and supplies.

Hezbollah’s weaponry includes advanced missile systems, such as the Zelzal 2, which has a range of up to 200 km. Its possession of such weaponry means that Israeli communities will remain in Hezbollah’s missile range and thus vulnerable to attack, even after Hezbollah is removed from the border zone. Clearly, it is inconceivable for a terror organisation to retain such capabilities, and provision will need to be made in any ceasefire agreement, for the addressing of this issue.

Finally, of course, any conclusion of the current conflict must include the return of the two kidnapped IDF soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who are being held by Hezbollah.

In all these goals, Israel's stance is in full accordance with the position stated by the international community, and officially outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions 425 and 1559. In addition, this stance received the international community’s support in the concluding statement of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg earlier this month. The members of the G8 summit concluded by saying thatwe extend to the Government of Lebanon our full support in asserting its sovereign authority over all its territory in fulfilment of UNSCR 1559. This includes the deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces to all parts of the country, in particular the South, and the disarming of militias. We would welcome an examination by the UN Security Council of the possibility of an international security/monitoring presence.“

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