Monday, August 28, 2006

Analysis / Nasrallah's mistake

From today's Haaretz:

In a calm, almost polite voice, Hassan Nasrallah discussed the strategic error he made. In a rare interview to a female reporter from New TV, he said that had he known that the result of the two soldiers' abduction would be war, he would not have ordered the raid. Not only was the planning problematic, Nasrallah admitted, but also its execution. The plan was for a "clean" abduction, but an unexpected clash occurred at the site of the attack.

However, was there really a mistake in his assessment, or was this an effort to revise the past retroactively? The answer to this question is important because it deals with the link between the initiation of the war and the role of Iran and Syria in that decision. If Nasrallah indeed erred in his assessment, and was not at all interested in the outbreak of the war, then there is no basis for the claim that the raid was meant to distract the international community from applying pressure on Iran and Syria.

But Nasrallah is also contradicting himself. In some of his statements, he explains that the raid was meant to preempt a planned IDF offensive against the group in September, and that the abduction was meant to cause Israel to react at a time when it was not ready. But this also appears to contradict Nasrallah's standard stance that Hezbollah never initiates attacks against Israel but merely reacts.

Still, the overall reactions of Nasrallah and his aides suggest that the Israeli reaction did come as a major surprise.

Another question in the interview had to do with his assessment of "the next round." Nasrallah explained that the situation in Israel, the disputes in the army and especially the efforts to rebuild the north suggest that Israel has no intention of embarking on another round. He also said that any warnings from Israel about another round of fighting is meant to pressure the government of Lebanon to accept the conditions set by Israel.

Not by chance does Nasrallah forget that northern Israel and southern Lebanon were doing quite well when Israel "embarked on the first round" in response to Hezbollah's raid on July 12. But the facts in this case are not important. The Hezbollah leader is sending a message regarding his intentions, at least in the near future. While he says that he will assist the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, and will not compete with the government forces, he suggests that the group's military wing is not going to be part of the Lebanese military structure.

A hint at his intentions can be found in his reference to the Shaba Farms. The government, he explained, believes that this territory is Lebanese. In other words, Hezbollah has the right to act in order to liberate them. The question remains how this liberation will come about, and "at this time there are no guarantees offered." In this way Nasrallah would like to preserve two prerogatives he retains for Hezbollah: the right to liberate Lebanese land and the right to defend the country.

Nasrallah still holds veto power over the decisions of the Lebanese government, but the bar for when it is possible to exercise this right has been raised much higher than before.

Annan arrives in Lebanon to shore up truce

Excellent overview from Reuters, posted in full:

BEIRUT - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Beirut shortly after midday Monday, the first stop of a whirlwind Middle East tour to shore up a truce between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Annan will discuss in the Lebanese capital the deployment of a 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, the lifting an Israeli air and sea blockade of Lebanon and a possible prisoner swap.

The 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah was triggered by the capture by Hezbollah of Israeli reservist soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in a cross-border raid on July 12.

The conflict ended on August 14 when a UN-brokered cease-fire came into effect.

Annan, who will meet Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who has close ties to Hezbollah, is seeking full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, a UN spokesman said.

The resolution made several demands on Israel, Lebanon and the international community which have yet to be met.

It called for the full reopening of Lebanon's ports and airport, blockaded by Israel since the start of the war, and for the securing of Lebanese borders to prevent arms smuggling to Hezbollah.

The resolution also asked the international community for up to 13,000 troops to expand the existing UNIFIL force in Lebanon.

Annan discussed the European Union's military contribution with EU leaders in Brussels on Friday. He said France, which has promised 2,000 troops, would continue to lead it until February when Italy, which has pledged 3,000, would take over.

"We should deploy, I hope, within the next few days, not the next few weeks," Annan said after the talks.

An aide to Siniora said the prime minister would ask the UN chief to press Israel to end its blockade on Lebanon.

Lebanon has formed a committee to tighten security measures at the airport, ports and land crossings, a senior security official said. Among the tasks of the committee, headed by police chief Brigadier-General Ashraf Rifi, will be to upgrade security equipment at Beirut's international airport.

Also on Annan's agenda is the release of Israeli and Lebanese prisoners, including the two soldiers.

Hezbollah wants to exchange them for some of the thousands of Arab prisoners, including Lebanese, in Israeli jails.

Annan has said both sides will have to make "painful compromises" to get what they want.

As well as visiting Beirut, Annan is expected to travel to southern Lebanon. He arrive in Israel on Tuesday and is also due to visit Syria and Iran.

Ghazi Hamad's criticisms

"When you walk in the streets of Gaza City, you cannot but close your eyes because of what you see there: unimaginable chaos, careless policemen, young men carrying guns and strutting with pride and families receiving condolences for their dead in the middle of the street."

This is how Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority government and a former newspaper editor, described the situation in the Gaza Strip in an article he published on Sunday on some Palestinian news Web sites.

The article, the first of its kind by a senior Hamas official, also questioned the effectiveness of the Kassam rocket attacks and noted that since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip, the situation there has deteriorated on all levels. It holds the armed groups responsible for the crisis and calls on them to reconsider their tactics and to stop blaming Israel for their mistakes.

Full Article

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Cease-Fire Reality: Dealing With Syria

By Dennis RossThursday, August 17, 2006;

In 1993 and 1996 I helped broker understandings that brought conflicts between Hezbollah and Israel to an end. Both times Hezbollah instigated warfare with Katyusha rocket fire into Israel and Israel retaliated, determined to damage Hezbollah's capacity for making war and to demonstrate to the Lebanese the cost of Hezbollah's adventures. And both times, to bring about an enduring cease-fire, we needed to deal with Syria.
This time, however, the cease-fire deal was done without the Syrians. The question is: Can the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 be fulfilled without Syria being part of the equation? It doesn't seem likely.

Implementation of this resolution will depend to a large degree on the Syrians -- unless, of course, the new international force deployed with the Lebanese army can both prevent resupply to Hezbollah and bolster Lebanon's military so it can fulfill the role envisioned for it in the resolution.

The more determined Syria is to frustrate implementation of the resolution, the more the international force will need a capability and a mandate to be aggressive in stopping efforts to get arms to Hezbollah and in preventing its restoration as a fighting force. Will the international force have intensive inspection capability? Will it be deployed along all routes into Lebanon from Syria and be able to inspect all relevant vehicular traffic? Will it set up checkpoints on north-south access routes in Lebanon to do the same? And can 15,000 soldiers be organized to perform these roles while also preventing Hezbollah from training and rebuilding its fortifications in the area from the Litani River to the Israeli border?
In theory it's possible that the multinational force will be able to meet these challenges. But given how quickly it must be constituted and deployed, there is every reason to believe it will not be able to accomplish such a mission anytime soon. Even in the best case, the forces are not likely to be aggressive if it means disrupting commerce between Syria and Lebanon or actively depriving Hezbollah of weapons that it seeks. (Already the French foreign minister has declared that he does not foresee disarming Hezbollah.)

To be sure, the implementation of the letter and the spirit of the resolution will also depend on the Lebanese government and army. Both institutions remain fragile, and Syrian opposition could exploit ongoing sectarian differences. With the international community ready to bolster the Lebanese government with forces and reconstruction assistance, there has never been a more promising moment for the Lebanese to act on their national obligations. They need to know that assistance, while forthcoming, will be tied over time to their government and their army living up to their responsibilities.

But there should be no illusions. History is full of good resolutions on Lebanon that have not been implemented because the Syrians had the power to block them. At a time when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is calling Hezbollah's victory a defeat for U.S. plans in the Middle East, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is proclaiming that implementation of Resolution 1701 will constitute a strategic setback for the Syrian regime, can Syria's behavior be altered to make this U.N. resolution's fate different from those of its predecessors?

It can if we take advantage of the new basis that exists to exercise much more leverage on Syria this time. Consider that the French and other Europeans will now be putting forces on the ground in Lebanon. If Hezbollah is being resupplied with arms and can be reconstituted militarily, those forces will become very vulnerable. That gives the French a powerful stake in preventing Hezbollah from rearming.
Working in tandem, the Bush administration and the French should try to change the Syrian calculus. Syria sees Hezbollah as a card -- something to be exploited to make Syria a factor in the region or to be traded in the right circumstances. We should create a one-two punch with the French to make clear that Syria has something significant to lose by not cutting off Hezbollah, and that it has something meaningful to gain from changing course.

Surely, if the international force is seen as credible and determined, it can convince Assad that Hezbollah is going to be contained and that its value to Syria could diminish. But Assad must also see that Syria will pay an unmistakable price if it tries to block implementation of Resolution 1701. That price could be a joint French-E.U. and American effort to isolate Syria economically if it is unwilling to end its material support for Hezbollah.

The Europeans currently provide a critical economic lifeline to the Syrians. French President Jacques Chirac could credibly warn Assad that if arms flow to Hezbollah and threaten French troops, then Europe will cut all economic ties to Syria. Conversely, if Syria ended its military relationship with Hezbollah and accepted the Lebanese government's effort to reestablish its authority, the European Union could promise new and meaningful economic benefits to Damascus.

In such a scenario, the European Union would be Act 1. Act 2 would involve the United States. The Bush administration, which has expressed an interest in weaning Syria away from Iran, won't be able to do that without talking to the Syrians. And it won't be able to do it by continuing to make threats that have no consequences. It will not be enough to continue saying, "The Syrians know what they need to do."

The United States must reinforce a tough E.U. message with one of its own to Assad, namely this: We are prepared to implement a range of sanctions, including the Syrian Accountability Act and executive orders that would make it difficult for companies and financial institutions that do business in Syria to conduct business in the United States.
This would have the potential of choking off European, Asian (and even Arab) countries and businesses from having any commercial or investment relations with Syria -- and it could be devastating for an already weak economy. That's a lever that should be deployed to build the Syrian interest in cooperating.

No doubt the Syrians would want to know what they'd get from such cooperation. They should be told that the page can be turned in our relations, that economic benefits could be forthcoming, and that even a resumption of the peace process between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights could be in the offing. None of these things can be available if Syria is not prepared to cut off Hezbollah and Hamas. Why, after all, would we invest anything in a peace process when those two organizations retain the means -- with Syrian support -- of subverting that process at a time of their choosing?

History is littered with well-intentioned efforts to transform Lebanon. If the current effort is to be different, we will need a credible international force shaped by real, not symbolic, missions and a new approach to Syria -- one that gives the Syrians a reason to calculate their interests differently.

The writer was director for policy planning in the State Department under President George H.W. Bush and special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton. He is counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Avi Dichter, a man with political influence and a considered voice, has made front page news in Israel, leading the call for negotiations with Syria. Prime Minister Olmert has however strongly rejected this, in light of Syria's continued support for terrorism against Israel. See William's post on the NCF Syria blog.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lebanon army starts to move south

Lebanese troops have crossed the strategic Litani river to take up positions as Israel's army pulls back.

France has confirmed it is ready to command an expanded international force working along with the Lebanese army, but only under certain conditions.

Israel's military said it had passed control of half of its positions in the south to the current UN force there.

It indicated that a full withdrawal from what was a stronghold of Hezbollah could take weeks or even months.

Dozens of Lebanese army trucks, armoured personnel carriers and jeeps are on the move across the Litani using temporary bridges set up to bypass bridges damaged by Israeli shelling.

Full Story

Israeli FM briefing on UN Security Resolution 1701

(translated from Hebrew)

Cabinet Secretary Maimon:

Today's resolution by the Israeli government relates to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701:

"The government of Israel announces its decision to accept the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and will act according to its obligations as outlined in the Resolution."

Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni:

My thanks to the Cabinet Secretary.

I will relate to the resolution itself and also give a brief summary of what preceded it and why, in my opinion, as I also said today in the cabinet, the Security Council resolution is good for Israel and, if implemented, will lead to a substantive change in the rules of the game in Lebanon, in the relationship between Israel and Lebanon.

I am not naive. I do not live only within my own people. I also live in the Middle East and I am aware of the fact that not every resolution is implemented. I am aware of the difficulties, and despite all this I say with complete confidence that the Security Council resolution is good for Israel. With regard to implementation of the resolution, a great deal depends on the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, and no less on the international community. Their determination to genuinely and fully implement its resolutions, can lead to this regional change that we all await, and will prevent this resolution from staying on the shelf as happened, unfortunately, with previous resolutions on the Lebanese issue, such as parts of Resolution 1559, and Resolution 1680.

In order to understand the significance of the resolution and see whether it is really good and safeguards Israel's interests, we must compare two different aspects, and I will make these two comparisons.

One is to look at Israel's current situation compared with the political situation that existed before this resolution was passed and before the outbreak of hostilities on July 12. And the second question we must ask ourselves, is whether the goals that were intended to change the rules in Lebanon and the relationship between Israel and Lebanon, as well as the internal situation within Lebanon, could have been achieved by military means alone.

As a result of Hizbullah's attack on Israel from Lebanon on July 12 and the kidnapping of the two soldiers, one of Israel's objectives, which Israel will not abandon, is, of course, the return of the soldiers.

I will outline the political situation in Lebanon that existed prior to the attack on Israel: the situation that we saw was that there was a weak government. Living alongside this government was a terrorist organization, maintaining its own army, totally in control of the entire south of Lebanon, conducting deliberate provocations against Israel, both against its soldiers and against its residents, any time it wanted to heat up the atmosphere, and also trying to determine and dictate Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

We saw UNIFIL forces in very small numbers, in the best case serving as observers but ineffective in maintaining peace in the region. There was no Lebanese army in southern Lebanon. Hizbullah was regularly receiving weapons from Syria and Iran through Syria, through the border crossings. After the passage of Resolution 1559 calling for the disarmament of the militias, we saw a political process of internal dialogue in Lebanon that did not produce any results whatsoever. This internal dialogue was one in which the Prime Minister of Lebanon held discussions with Hizbullah, but did not enforce Lebanese sovereignty, and the result is what led to the attack against Israel.

The political situation at that time is that there was a resolution lying on the shelf ¬- Resolution 1559 - calling, in principle, for enforcement of Lebanese sovereignty throughout Lebanon and the disarming of the militias. As I noted earlier, there is a kind of dialogue between the Lebanese government and Hizbullah and voices are starting to be heard saying that perhaps Hizbullah is not a militia as stated in Resolution 1559, and perhaps it does not need to be disarmed.

Afterwards we saw Resolution 1680. This resolution also examined the failure to implement Resolution 1559 and stated the need to determine the border of Lebanon. It also called on Syria to accept and adopt the resolutions that had been passed regarding the border between Lebanon and Syria. Part of Resolution 1680 is also relevant to the resolution adopted by the government of Israel today.

As noted, the situation had to change and it was necessary not only to adopt Resolution 1559 at the theoretical level, but also to translate it into action.

Immediately after the outbreak of hostilities we also set ourselves goals. We asked ourselves how it would be possible to achieve those pivotal goals and whether a military process could achieve all of them.

I am talking about a process that took place here in the first days after the outbreak of the fighting, and it became clear that most of the goals we were setting ourselves could not be achieved solely through military action. In the nature of things, we could not bring back the soldiers by military means, and an effective deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon would require decision and action by the Lebanese government, not just military action on the part of Israel. Preventing the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah is something that the army can do in the course of combat, but it was obvious to us that as soon as the fighting ended, the supply of weapons to Hizbullah would resume, and it was necessary to make this an achievable goal. The military action that was needed and was implemented was to weaken the power of Hizbullah and pave the way for political processes, to enable the achievement of the long-term goals that we set ourselves.

With regard to the proceedings of the Security Council resolution, it is important to note that this is not a UN Security Council resolution that is being forced on Israel. And now we are dealing with the question of whether we adopt it or not. It is important to state that, from the beginning, when we understood that, in fact, these goals had to be achieved by political means, and because it was obvious to us that the entire international community understood the cause of the recent incidents and that it was necessary to implement Resolution 1559, we ourselves acted to initiate the procedures and resolutions that would promote the goals we had set ourselves.

This work was conducted in the Foreign Ministry by a team headed by the director-general of the Ministry, right from the earliest days of the war.
Its practical translation is as follows. First of all, it must be stated explicitly that the decision and the need to implement Resolution 1559 appear in Security Council Resolution 1701. However, we felt that this was not sufficient because such a resolution had already been passed. We therefore asked for it to be broken down into actions to be taken in the field, so if we are talking about the exercise of Lebanese sovereignty, we must to see the Lebanese army moving southward on an immediate and practical level, because what worries Israel more is, naturally, what happens in southern Lebanon, which has become the Hizbullah base from which rockets and missiles were fired into Israel, without the Lebanese government even having a foothold there.

Since it was obvious that the Lebanese government or the Lebanese army was too weak to implement this process on its own, we asked for the involvement of international forces to join the Lebanese army and help it enforce the sovereignty of the Lebanese government in southern Lebanon.

True, the forces we are requesting will be effective. There was a discussion on the question of whether these are forces that should come under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, that is, forces which have the authority to enforce and not merely to observe. And this is what we also requested - that the countries taking part in the international forces should be NATO members or countries with experienced armies that will also be able to fight and use force if required.

In this context, it was clear from the start that we were talking about a multinational force with a United Nations mandate, but we requested that it not come from UNIFIL, with which we are familiar in the framework of the observer forces. The discussions produced a result that is acceptable to Israel. We are not talking about the UNIFIL forces we are used to seeing in southern Lebanon and on the northern border of Israel, that is, a meager force of observers. We will now be getting an expanded UNIFIL with more people. We will be getting UNIFIL with a completely different mandate, which includes the right, the option and the authority to use force when required, a mandate that is very similar to resolutions passed under Chapter 7.

I would like to make it clear that in this Resolution 1701, as in resolutions passed under Chapter 7, we see a statement to the effect that what is taking place in Lebanon is a threat to world peace and security, and these resolutions, which relate to bringing in forces and to the embargo that I will address at a later stage, use the term to signify enforcement, and not merely as a call to do something, as we are used to seeing in resolutions that are based on Chapter 6.

In the same way, the Lebanese government announced that it would move its army southward. In this framework, the Lebanese government announced that it accepted the fact that international forces of this kind would join the Lebanese army. So what we are seeing today, after the resolution has passed - and assuming that it is implemented - compared with the situation that existed before, could create a dramatic change in southern Lebanon. I would like to remind you that prior to the attack, and for many years, Israel's only demand was that the Lebanese government move its army southward, and what we are getting today is not only the Lebanese army but also significant reinforcement. I would like to note that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his speech the same evening regarding this force, also used terms relating to an enforcement force and not merely an observer force, and this is also how the resolution relates to all its different aspects.

At the same time, a call has gone out today to members of the United Nations to send the relevant kind forces, which are capable of enforcing the resolution, and I hope that we will see this happening in the near future.

We also requested that there not be a vacuum, in other words, that there not be a situation in which the IDF pulls out, leaving a vacuum in which Hizbullah could return to the same places it had left or, alternatively, remain in place with nothing happening. Therefore, as part of the discussions leading up to passage of the resolution, it was also clarified, agreed and accepted by the Security Council that there would not be a situation in which Israel was required to withdraw its forces and leave a vacuum, but that Israel would withdraw at the same time that the Lebanese army forces moved in, together with the international force. There should also not be a situation in which we see a soldier from the Lebanese army arriving and then we are told to leave, but rather, if we choose - and the decision is up to Israel - we will be able to leave simultaneously with the entrance of the international forces together with the Lebanese army.

The second problem that we expected to occur, one way or another, on cessation of the military campaign, was a situation in which, within a short time, Hizbullah would be rearmed by Iran and Syria, through Syria, so we asked from the start, at our initiative, for an arms embargo on Hizbullah. The initiative in this case came from Israel, and we placed it on the table of the international community.

Even in the last hours before passage of the resolution, we wanted to ensure that this embargo would be enforceable and substantive, preventing the transfer of arms from these countries to Hizbullah, in fact, to anyone other than the Lebanese army. Now the embargo is part of the UN resolution and the terms and formulation of this article are acceptable to Israel and express our opinion - a proper embargo.

Thus, even with a decision or request by the Lebanese government, it will be possible to monitor the international borders of Lebanon, not only by means of the Lebanese army and security forces but also with the help of international forces. And it is important to say that, one way or the other, responsibility has been imposed on the Lebanese government to ensure that arms do not enter in order to prevent the rearming of Hizbullah.

The question has been asked about whether everything is now dependent on decisions or requests from the Lebanese government with regard to the international forces, and it is important to state something in principle. One of the problems we have faced in recent years, and we also saw it in this attack, was the fact that the Lebanese government does not exercise or enforce its sovereignty. The concept we want to go with is that ultimately there will be two countries, one Israel, and the other Lebanon. Two countries, each of which understands that being a sovereign state also involves responsibilities, and that you are also responsible if you do not fulfill Security Council resolutions as required. From our standpoint, any entire process that involves placing power in the hands of the Lebanese government so that it can enforce its sovereignty is a positive one which, of course, creates a genuine change in the situation in Lebanon.

Additionally, it was important because, as noted, when a national dialogue took place within Lebanon it appeared that Hizbullah was beginning to acquire other, softer names and was perhaps beginning to be accepted as something that was not a militia as required and agreed. It was important to obtain international recognition of the fact that the start of hostilities was due to the provocation and action by Hizbullah, which is mentioned by name in the Security Council resolution. It is also clear that the entire process is intended to lead, in the end, to the disarming of Hizbullah, not just to the Lebanese army moving southward, not just to an embargo, but to a process completed by the disarmament of Hizbullah, as was required from the start in the previous resolutions, but today we are also creating the way to enforce this process at a practical level.

Another thing: regarding the international force - should it become apparent that the forces that were decided upon are not adequate, the resolution opens the way that will allow for improving the mandate and creating a proper force so that it will be more effective, with a broader mandate than this one. This is already determined in the resolution.

Israel, of course demanded that the kidnapped soldiers be returned to their families as this was and still is our goal. During this period, we have undergone some difficult processes in which there was a demand to connect the release of our kidnapped soldiers to the release of Lebanese prisoners currently being held in Israel We insisted that there be no connection between these two matters at any level. We did not feel it was right, just or ethical from any point of view to connect these two issues into a single formula. There is absolutely no equivalence between soldiers who were kidnapped to Lebanon in an action that violated the sovereign rights of the State of Israel within its own borders by a terrorist organization such as Hizbullah and prisoners being held in an Israeli prison, some of whom have been convicted of committing unspeakable terrorist crimes. We demanded that the international community stand behind the statements made on the very first day following the kidnapping - that the kidnapped soldiers be released unconditionally. This statement now appears in the Security Council resolution. True, it appears in the preamble, which is referred to as the "declarative section," but the soldiers are mentioned as the cause of the dispute for which the citizens of Israel and some of the citizens of Lebanon have paid dearly and which created the urgent need to deal with the factors that led to the current crisis, including releasing the kidnapped Israeli soldiers unconditionally. Israel has no intention of allowing this matter to remain at the level of a declaration. We will continue to act to make it possible for us to bring them home. Here, too, I wish to note the remarks made by the UN Secretary General on the day the resolution was passed, when he referred to the process and spoke of the actions that must take place between Israel and Lebanon and he talked about the kidnapped Israeli soldiers as the starting point for any process that Israel and Lebanon will engage in.

Within this framework, Lebanon requested, even demanded, that at some stage the subject of the Shaba Farms be included and we saw this in some of the drafts of the resolution. We must understand that Shaba Farms are located. or that the boundaries of Lebanon are supposed to be fixed and this was also established in Security Council resolution 1680, which we also demanded be implemented. But the framework in which it is mentioned in resolution 1680 deals with the relationship between Lebanon and Syria. This resolution states that the border must be redrawn and calls for Syria to adopt the resolution that was passed. Israel was not involved in that story and Israel will not get involved in it as a result of the passing of this resolution.
In the past, in previous drafts placed before us a week ago, this matter appeared in the framework of a discussion that needed to take place, as part of a section dealing with relations between Israel and Lebanon. Israel insisted that this subject be removed from the framework of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon and as a result of our demands in this matter, it is mentioned only within the framework of the implementation of resolution 1680, which, as previously mentioned, is an existing resolution in which there is no mention of reopening negotiations regarding the Shaba Farms.

It is also worth noting that the resolution ends with the mention of previous resolutions dealing with the relations between Israel and its neighbors, including resolution 242, that deals with a process which, I hope, will eventually lead to a discussions on a peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon.

We must also see the explanation given by the USA regarding its vote in which this article is also noted - Shaba Farms relates to implementation of resolution 1680 and no more.

This is all I have to say regarding the resolution.

Since, as I stated previously, the resolution deals with practical and genuine implementation at a level of detail that did not exist in previous resolutions, and with agreements - of the Lebanese government as well - that we have not seen before and which we accepted, among other things, as a result of the processes we conducted at both the military and political level, there is a chance of seeing a change in Lebanon, provided that the international community does not suffice with the resolution and does not leave it as it is.

In my estimation, especially due to the events of the past month, the international community as well as the Lebanese government understands that Israel will no longer accept a situation whereby a terrorist organization sits on its border and fires Katyushas at Israeli citizens or, alternatively, attacks Israeli soldiers whenever it wants to. So as I stated earlier, in comparing the political situation on the day before and the chance that this resolution will change the situation in Lebanon, with the goals we set for ourselves here two days after the beginning of the conflict and what we hope to achieve following termination of the military operation, without addressing the question of when and how it will end, we have attained most of the goals in the Israeli initiative which, in effect, we placed as the first draft on the table of the international community.

This process was not simple and I will repeat here what I said previously - a summary of previous chapters. About a week ago, a French-American draft resolution was publicized. We must also remember that only a week before there was an American initiative that was designed to create agreements and lead to a resolution in the Security Council. As a result of the event in Kafr Qana, there was a regression in the situation, the Lebanese government also withdrew its acceptance and, in effect, the French resolution began to gain momentum which ultimately became a joint American-French resolution.
Resolution 1701, which was passed, is far better than the one previously proposed by the Americans and French, and I will explain why. The American-French resolution contained the right words and, on a declarative level, included everything. The problem was that it spoke of a process that included two resolutions - the first was primarily declarative and only the second part dealt with practical matters that also included the placement of international forces.

According to that resolution a number of actions needed to be taken by both Israel and Lebanon and only after these actions were taken would it be possible to bring in the international forces and, just to remind you, the Shaba Farms were also mentioned within this framework. So it was important to us during this period, and it was understood by all those who dealt with the matter, that if we were drawn into a situation of two resolutions it was possible that the first resolution would be wonderful from a textual point of view but its implementation would be delayed - something nobody wanted. What we are now seeing is that the part meant to be in the second resolution was included in the first one, strengthening it significantly from the standpoint of the embargo and the international force, and we still retained the possibility, if needed, of an additional resolution should we wish to strengthen the international force. This option actually remained from the first resolution, but as an option for the future that we consider important.

During the past week we had some very difficult discussions. If last Thursday it seemed that we were in a situation where the package was one that we not only could accept but that we wanted to promote - during the night between Thursday and Friday, including Friday, we found ourselves facing the concern that it would be a very weak resolution, primarily on the matters we considered important, such as the international force, its characteristics and its mandate and the matter of the embargo.

It should be noted that with regard to the kidnapped soldiers, the positioning of the statement regarding the need to release them was the same in all the previous drafts. Also, the matter of the Shaba Farms was including a manner that was unacceptable to us and we responded on Friday that, to our regret, and despite the fact that we were very anxious to see this Security Council resolution as one that could change the face of the situation in Lebanon, we could not live with the resolution that was about to be formulated. I delivered this message to the Secretary of State. At the same time, discussions were also held by the professional teams since during the entire period, in addition to those discussions between myself and the Secretary of State, a professional team from the office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense was dealing with wording, together with their American counterparts. Discussions were held by the chief of staff of the Prime Minister's office and a very clear message was given to Steve Hadley, that Israel could not live with the proposed agreement. On Friday we had, in effect, reached the conclusion that this package would not change the situation in Lebanon and we were not prepared to settle for statements that were simply words with no effectiveness.

At the same time, during the afternoon, as you know, a decision was reached by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to approve the start of a military operation and just as it was starting to go into action late Friday we began to strengthen the resolution and return it to the level at which we felt it should originally be.

Thus if we look at the two parameters that I previously proposed, one to view the political situation in Lebanon, and between Lebanon and Israel, the day before, and to see what the chances are and where this resolution can lead, we can - if it is implemented - see a dramatic change. Can anyone promise us with absolute certainty that it will be implemented completely? From the nature of things, no. However we have a commitment, the international community has a commitment and from here on in we must see to its implementation. However, there is no doubt and I haven't heard here today, even during the government's discussions, anyone who denigrates the contents and achievements of this resolution from the standpoint of Israel's interests. We must always also remember that there will sometimes be people who say we stopped the army too soon. I posed this question at the beginning of my remarks. There are things that no army in the world can achieve, certainly not after it has completed its operation. Preventing the entry of weapons during regular times and not during a military operation, the deployment of the Lebanese army southward and the disarming of Hizbullah is a process that Lebanon will need to undergo and with what we have created with the help of the international community, along with international pressure, I hope that ultimately we will be able to see this process commence.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

UN Security Council Resolution adopted

The text of Resolution 1701, passed unanimously by the UN Security Council aimed at ending the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.


The Security Council,

Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978), 426 (1978), 520 (1982), 1559 (2004), 1655 (2006), 1680 (2006) and 1697 (2006), as well as the statements of its president on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statements of 18 June, 2000, of 19 October, 2004, of 4 May 2005, of 23 January 2006 and of 30 July 2006;

Expressing its utmost concern at the continuing escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and in Israel since Hezbollah's attack on Israel on 12 July 2006, which has already caused hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons;

Emphasising the need for an end of violence, but at the same time emphasising the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers;

Mindful of the sensitivity of the issue of prisoners and encouraging the efforts aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel;

Welcoming the efforts of the Lebanese prime minister and the commitment of the government of Lebanon, in its seven-point plan, to extend its authority over its territory, through its own legitimate armed forces, such that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon, welcoming also its commitment to a UN force that is supplemented and enhanced in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation, and bearing in mind its request in this plan for an immediate withdrawal of the Israeli forces from southern Lebanon;

Determined to act for this withdrawal to happen at the earliest;

Taking due note of the proposals made in the seven-point plan regarding the Shebaa farms area;

Welcoming the unanimous decision by the government of Lebanon on 7 August 2006 to deploy a Lebanese armed force of 15,000 troops in south Lebanon as the Israeli army withdraws behind the Blue Line and to request the assistance of additional forces from Unifil as needed, to facilitate the entry of the Lebanese armed forces into the region and to restate its intention to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces with material as needed to enable it to perform its duties;

Aware of its responsibilities to help secure a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution to the conflict;

Determining that the situation in Lebanon constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

2. Upon full cessation of hostilities, calls upon the government of Lebanon and Unifil as authorised by paragraph 11 to deploy their forces together throughout the South and calls upon the government of Israel, as that deployment begins, to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon in parallel;

3. Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;

4. Reiterates its strong support for full respect for the Blue Line;

5. Also reiterates its strong support, as recalled in all its previous relevant resolutions, for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders, as contemplated by the Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement of 23 March 1949;

6. Calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbours, consistent with paragraphs 14 and 15, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future to contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon;

7. Affirms that all parties are responsible for ensuring that no action is taken contrary to paragraph 1 that might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution, humanitarian access to civilian populations, including safe passage for humanitarian convoys, or the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons, and calls on all parties to comply with this responsibility and to cooperate with the Security Council;

8. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:

Full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;
security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorised in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;
No sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government;
Provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel's possession;
9. Invites the secretary general to support efforts to secure as soon as possible agreements in principle from the government of Lebanon and the government of Israel to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set forth in paragraph 8, and expresses its intention to be actively involved;

10. Requests the secretary general to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament, and for delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area, and to present to the Security Council those proposals within 30 days;

11. Decides, in order to supplement and enhance the force in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operations, to authorize an increase in the force strength of Unifil to a maximum of 15,000 troops, and that the force shall, in addition to carrying out its mandate under resolutions 425 and 426 (1978):

a. Monitor the cessation of hostilities;

b. Accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the South, including along the Blue Line, as Israel withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon as provided in paragraph 2;

c. Coordinate its activities related to paragraph 11 (b) with the government of Lebanon and the government of Israel;

d. Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons;

e. Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8;
f. Assist the government of Lebanon, at its request, to implement paragraph 14;
12. Acting in support of a request from the government of Lebanon to deploy an international force to assist it to exercise its authority throughout the territory, authorizes Unifil to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilised for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers, and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence;

13. Requests the secretary general urgently to put in place measures to ensure Unifil is able to carry out the functions envisaged in this resolution, urges member states to consider making appropriate contributions to Unifil and to respond positively to requests for assistance from the Force, and expresses its strong appreciation to those who have contributed to Unifil in the past;

14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;

15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft;

a. the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and;

b. the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorised by the government of Lebanon or by Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11;
16. Decides to extend the mandate of Unifil until 31 August 2007, and expresses its intention to consider in a later resolution further enhancements to the mandate and other steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution;

17. Requests the secretary general to report to the Council within one week on the implementation of this resolution and subsequently on a regular basis;

18. Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973;

19. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Galloway support for Hizballah

Sky's description:

George Galloway has spoken out in support of Lebanon, saying he believes Hizbollah is justified in attacking Israel. The Respect MP also lambasted media coverage of the war and said the UN resolution means nothing.

Galloway at his best. Overbearing and extremely rude, as well as openly supporting terrorism, this video must be seen to be believed.

See the Sky video here

Israel pauses to give diplomacy a chance

From the Associated Press

BEIRUT Israeli troops, backed by tanks and armored vehicles, took the key south Lebanon town of Marjayoun early Thursday just hours before a senior Israeli official announced that the military would hold off expanding its ground offensive to give diplomacy a chance.
Cabinet minister Rafi Eitan confirmed Thursday the government's decision to wait after Israel's Security Cabinet on Wednesday approved the deeper push into Lebanon.
Israel's capture of Marjayoun and advances on nearby towns appeared to underline that it was continuing its operations to strengthen its position in the border areas even though it was not broadening its offensive.
Some 10,000 troops have been operating within a six-kilometer-deep border strip in southern Lebanon.
By establishing positions at the northern entrances of Marjayoun about nine kilometers from the border, Israel takes its ground operations deeper into south Lebanon than before, although only by a few kilometers.
The troops met no resistance as they pushed their way into the Christian town, residents said. Later, Israeli troops warned the residents of Marjayoun and the nearby town of Qleia through loud speakers to stay in their homes.
After taking Marjayoun, Israeli soldiers moved to the nearby village of Blatt where they took up positions on a strategic hill overlooking the Litani River valley, witnesses said.
Marjayoun, Blatt and the nearby village of Bourj al-Mulouk are key locations because they overlook the Litani River valley from which Hezbollah guerrillas fire their rockets into northern Israel.
Residents also said that Israeli troops had entered the Lebanese border town of Khiam.
Hezbollah said Thursday that its guerrillas were engaged in "a violent confrontation" with Israeli forces whose tanks tried to advance toward Khiam, the group's Al-Manar television reported.
Israel Army Radio reported heavy battles in south Lebanese villages across from Israel's Galilee panhandle, hard hit by rockets.
The Israeli army said it was conducting an operation against Katyusha rocket launchers in Khiam, which have been firing barrages at the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona.
The push toward Marjayoun came hours after a column of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles crossed into southern Lebanon Wednesday evening from the Israeli town of Metulla, invading under covering artillery fire and airstrikes, witnesses in the nearby village of Bourj al-Mulouk said.
Since Israel launched its military offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas on July 12, fierce fighting has raged between Israeli troops and the guerrillas in Lebanese border towns.
The operation on Thursday came shortly after Israel's security cabinet decided to expand the ground offensive and thrust toward the Litani River, which is down a valley only about six kilometers from the border in that area. Along the coast, however, the Litani is about 30 kilometers north of the Israeli border.
The Israeli military's planned broader offensive appeared to be a gambit aimed at bringing Hezbollah to its knees before the international community imposed a cease-fire in the month-old conflict.
The Israeli cabinet minister said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put the new military campaign in Lebanon on hold to give another chance to diplomatic efforts to reach a cease-fire.
"There are diplomatic considerations. There is still a chance that an international force will arrive in the area. We have no interest in being in south Lebanon. We have an interest in peace on our borders," Eitan told Israel Radio.
More than 800 people in Lebanon and Israel have died since fighting erupted.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

UN Security Council vote delayed

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States and France grappled on Tuesday over changes to a draft U.N. resolution aimed at ending the Israel-Hizbollah conflict as Arab officials pressed their demand that Israel withdraw from southern Lebanon.

Faced with sharp criticism from Lebanon and Arab nations, Washington and Paris delayed formally introducing the draft to the 15-nation Security Council and no vote is expected until Thursday at the earliest, council members said.

Full Story

Bringing in Syria

This, with thanks to Mr Baskin for forwarding it, is an opinion piece he has written for Ynetnews (Yediot Ahronot English online edition)

The Syrian option: The moment of truth

The rules of the game in the Middle East will only be changed when some of the currently persona no-grata are invited to the table
Gershon Baskin

It seems that we are approaching the beginning of the end of the current round of Middle East fighting. Putting an end to the “war without a name” in the north should create opportunities for reaching long term agreements that would put the
Middle East on a new course of peace making.

Prime Minister Olmert spoke about changing the rules of region as an end-game political consequence of the war. That goal will not be achieved through the military campaign. The rules of the game in the Middle East will only be changed when some of the currently persona no-grata are invited to the table.

While the fire is burning out of control it is difficult for politicians to see beyond the smoke, but the test of true leadership and statesmanship is in the ability to turn disaster into opportunities and to change hard-fast positions often voiced with great self conviction.

Syria is the key

The key to changing the rules is Syria . An end to the conflict in Lebanon that will not lead to the next round of fighting or to the internal destruction of Lebanon with a new round of civil war is bringing Syria into a peace process with Israel. Syria must be brought into the process in order to end the Iran-Syria alliance.

Syria must be brought into the process in order to allow the government of Lebanon to rein in Hizbullah and allow Hizbullah to become another political movement that is not a “state within a state.” The government of Lebanon will not be able to rein in Hizbullah without Syria backing the process. Syria will not join the process

Syria can be brought into the process if the United States provides Syria with sufficient assurances that it will gain significantly, both in terms of US and Western financial support and investments in Syria and by knowing that the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria sovereignty in exchange of peace with Israel.

The way to go

The United States should indicate its willingness to support Syria through public and private diplomacy. Syria should demonstrate its intentions by closing its border with Iraq preventing insurgency there, it should immediate stop the flow of weapons to Hizbullah and it should close the offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Damascus.

The US should respond to those steps by taking the “Rabin deposit” regarding Israeli-Syrian peace from the safe.

Israel should receive US assurances that the Golan will remain demilitarized and that an effective and robust multinational force will guarantee the peace of the Golan.

These steps would allow Israel and Lebanon to reach a cease fire and a peace deal that will include the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s seven points plan and the UN Security Council Resolution for a long term cease fire, an effective and robust multinational force in south Lebanon and the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

As for Lebanon, Hizbullah must be part of whatever international arrangement is reached. At this point it seems that the best option is for Hizbullah fighters to be integrated into the Lebanese army. This would probably raise the Shiite participation in the army to about 80 percent. Hizbullah will reject any deal that attempts to marginalize them and Syria will support Hizbullah’s position.

Gershon Baskin is the Co-CEO of the Israeli/Palestinian Center for Research and Information

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Statement by the United Nations Secretary General

Maie asked us to post this item from the UN Secretary General:

As I have repeatedly stated, I am extremely concerned about the dangerous situation in the occupied Palestinian Territory. I am appealing for urgent action to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation of the civilian population. The Israeli air strikes on Gaza's only power plant have had a far-reaching impact onGaza’s hospitals, flour mills, water and sanitation systems. The strict controls imposed during the past weeks on the passage of basic products into Gaza, including fuel, have aggravated the difficulties of the population. A statement issued 8 July by UN humanitarian agencies operating in the occupied Palestinian Territory provides more details on the situation. To address shortages of basic foodstuffs, and to maintain essential health and sanitation services, I call on the Government of Israel to restore and maintain the continuous and uninterrupted supply of fuel to Gaza and to act expeditiously to replace the destroyed equipment at the Gaza power plant. The passage of foodstuffs and other essential supplies through the Karni commercial crossing should be ensured and restrictions on movement and access for UN agencies should be lifted forthwith. Such steps should be without prejudice to the need toimplement in full the Access and Movement Agreement of 15 November 2005. I reiterate my appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blair sees UN resolution soon

By Katherine Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday he hoped for agreement within the next few days on a United Nations resolution aimed at bringing about an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hizbollah.

"I'm now hopeful we will have such a resolution down very shortly and agreed within the next few days. The purpose of that will be to bring about an immediate ceasefire and then put in place the conditions for the international force to come in in support of the Lebanese government," he told a news conference.

Calling it a "very critical time", Blair said differences over the U.N. Security Council resolution were very slight.

The United States and France are working on an initial U.N. resolution that would call for a truce in the three-week-old war between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah, which Beirut says has killed 900 people and wounded 3,000 others.

Blair, who has been heavily involved in the negotiations, said he believed there should be "a suspension of offensive operations" once the resolution was passed.

Israel has been insisting on the right to take "defensive action" against Hizbollah fighters launching attacks against troops or civilians during a truce, diplomats say.

Blair said U.N. Security Council members were not contemplating sending in two peacekeeping forces to southern Lebanon -- a smaller force immediately and a larger one later.

Full Story

IDF Statement on Qana

Jerusalem, 2 August 2006

Completion of inquiry into July 30th incident in Qana
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

Today, August 2, 2006, the IDF Chief of Staff was presented with the findings of the inquiry conducted into the incident in Qana on July 30th.

The inquiry confirms the information provided in the press briefing held by the IDF on the day of the incident, according to which the IDF targeted the building in an aerial attack on July 30th at 00:52 with two missiles, the first of which exploded and the second was apparently a dud.

The building was targeted in accordance with the military's guidelines regarding the use of fire against suspicious structures inside villages whose residents have been warned to evacuate, and which were adjacent to areas from where rockets are fired towards Israel. The guidelines were drafted based on surveillance and study of the behavior of the terrorists, who use civilian structures inside villages to store weaponry and hide in after launching rockets attacks.

Since July 12th, over 150 rockets were launched from within the village of Qana itself and the immediate surrounding area. The residents of Qana and the villages surrounding it were warned several times, through various media, to evacuate the area.

The IDF operated according to information that the building was not inhabited by civilians and was being used as a hiding place for terrorists. Had the information indicated that civilians were present in the building the attack would not have been carried out. Prior to the attack on the aforementioned building several other buildings which were part of the infrastructure for terror activity in the area were targeted.

In his summary the Chief of Staff Lt. General Dan Halutz again expressed his sorrow for the deaths of civilians, among them children, in the incident in Qana. He stated that the fight against terror, which cynically uses civilians as human shields and intentionally operates from within civilian villages and infrastructure, is much more difficult than traditional military combat and presents us with both operational and value oriented challenges.

The Chief of Staff emphasized that "The Hizbullah organization places Lebanese civilians as a defensive shield between itself and us while IDF places itself as a defensive shield between the citizens of Israel and Hizbullah's terror. That is the principal difference between us."

The Chief of Staff instructed that guidelines for opening fire against suspicious targets be evaluated and updated immediately, while staying relevant with operational needs and the dynamic nature of the information received, as is done on a regular basis.

The findings of the inquiry were also presented to the Minister of Defense.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Major policy speech by the PM on the Middle East

Click here to view the full text of Tony Blair's speech


Below are brief notes from a meeting I attended, in a personal capacity, with Israel's deputy ambassador, the head of the UK Zionist Federation and Schlomo Goldwasser, father of one of the two soldier captured by Hizballah in its initial attack.
The Israeli Deputy Ambassador stressed, in light of criticism for the lack of earlier action, that Israel had allowed Hizballah to build up its weapons arsenal - which he pointed out was considerably larger than what many regular armies have - because it was not interested in a conflict. He stated that Israel had no territorial claims in Lebanon, nor were there any issues related to water. The head of the Zionist federation added that the recent events in Israeli politics were all geared towards peace, the emergence of Kadima, the disengagement, the convergence consensus, and hence any attempt by a government to neutralise the Hizballah threat was likely to be deeply unpopular with voters.

Mr Goldwasser, who spoke movingly and humbly, offered the story of his family. He spoke about the difference between Islamic radicalism, a cult of death that revels in 'martyrdom', and Israelis - Jewish - love of life, in which every single life is sacred, and that it is well known, and exploited, how strongly the IDF values each and every life that serves in it. He concluded by saying that he was telling this story over and over, as Hizballah had not offered any signs of life from his son, and it was all that he could do.

The Deputy AMbassador continued with a very simple message regarding calls for a ceasefire.

He stated that Israel was keen on having an effective international force in place as part of a diplomatic solution.

However, he made it clear, by way of an analogy, that Israel could not and would not accept a return to the status quo ante:

(My paraphrasing)

'If (proportional between the UK and Israel) 20 million people in the UK were fleeing from their homes or spending their lives in bunkers - we do not shout about our refugees, but we have many, nearly a million - as a result of an unprovoked attack over a sovereign border, the recognition of which is reafirmed yearly by the UN, if this threat had been in place for many years, by a group which is ideologically abhorrent, armed by nations whose virulent hostility to the UK knows no bounds, what would be the reaction? The people of this country would not tolerate it for one moment. Never would the UK agree to an immediate ceasefire, for the sake of a ceasefire, with 20 million citizens under fire, a ceasefire that would leave the rockets fired on those citizens in place. Israel has a duty to its citizens to remove this threat.'

There was also some discussion on the unbalanced nature of the press. This was a well informed and knowledgeable discussion, focusing on the very real shortcomings of the reporting of the current conflict, with several media outlets coming in for considered criticism. However, I will write about this in the relevant other NCF blog (

Israeli deputy PM speech

Click here to see yesterday's address to the Washington Institute by Shimon Peres, Israel's deputy PM

Amir Taheri

Below is an excerpt from Amir Taheri writing in the Times today. Click the title to read the entire article.

This is just the start of a showdown between the West and The Rest

The broader aspects of the Lebanon crisis are better understood in the Middle East than in the West. For the first time, Israel is under attack from Islamist and Arab secular radicals as “an American proxy”. Writing in Asharq Alawsat, a pan-Arab daily, a Syrian Cabinet minister, makes it clear that the war in Lebanon today is between “the forces of Islam and America, with Israel acting as an American proxy”.

Iran’s “supreme guide”, Ali Khamenei, expressed a similar view this week during an audience he granted in Tehran to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President. “What we see in Lebanon today represents the revolt of Muslim nations against America,” he said. “Hezbollah is backed (by Iran and others) because it is fighting America.” President Ch├ívez endorsed that analysis by calling on Muslims and non-Muslim revolutionaries to unite to “save the human race by finishing the US Empire”. Iran’s state-controlled media has said that Lebanon would become “the graveyard of the Bush plan for a new Middle East”.

Tehran believes that a victory for Hezbollah in Lebanon will strengthen President Ahmadinejad’s bid for the leadership of radical Islam. A number of recent events have made his attempt to wrest control more likely. This week several leading Sunni theologians at the Al-Azhar seminary in Cairo issued fatwas that allow Sunnis to fight alongside and under the command of Shia Muslims. The fatwas came in response to a Saudi fatwa that had declared any association with and support for Hezbollah to be haram (forbidden).

More significant was a message from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two. The Salafist radical tried to get hold of Hezbollah’s tailcoats in the hope of winning a share of the expected spoils of victory. He endorsed the idea of a global campaign against the “infidel”, thus abandoning his previous strategy of focusing the jihad on countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. More significantly, he dropped the al-Qaeda claim of fighting a defensive war against the infidel by designating a vast area of jihad from Spain to India.

All that is good news for President Ahmadinejad, who claims that Sunni radicalism has reached the limits of its capabilities in the fight against the global system led by the US and that it is now the turn of the Shia, led by Iran, to be in the driving seat.

“Hezbollah has fought Israel longer than all the major Arab armies combined ever did,” President Ahmadinejad told a crowd in Tehran this week. He also promised that Muslims would soon hear “very good news” about the jihad against the United States.

The idea of Shia leadership for the jihad was further boosted this year when Iran took Hamas under its wings. As a branch of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, a Sunni outfit, Hamas has exerted its influence to win wider support for Iranian leadership at least as a tactical choice.

Many in the Middle East are alarmed by these shifts of power and dread the prospect of the region entering a new dark age under radical Islamist regimes. For this reason, there seems to be much less hostility towards Israel in the wider Arab world than we might expect in the West. There may be no sympathy for Israel as such but many Arabs realise that the current war is over something bigger than a Jewish state with a tiny territory of 10,000 square miles, less than 1 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s land mass.

This war is one of many battles to be fought between those who wish to join the modern world, warts and all, and those who think they have an alternative. This is a war between the West and what one might describe as “The Rest”, this time represented by radical Islamism. All the talk of a ceasefire, all the diplomatic gesticulations may ultimately mean little in what is an existential conflict.