UN Resolution’s Time Sequence Could Leave Dangerous Vacuum in S. Lebanon

“That’s the best we can do for you,” US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice told Ehud Olmert Friday, Aug. 11, after 15 UN Security Council members unanimously endorsed the revised US-French resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon.
Olmert thanked US President George W. Bush for his work on Resolution 1701 in his first phone call to the White House since hostilities flared exactly a month ago.
Across the border in Beirut, Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora complained to US undersecretary of state David Welch that the resolution “gives Hizballah better protection than us.”
He had a point. The text finally approved, rather than addressing the most urgent security concerns of Israel and Lebanon, reflects the vetoes Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah laid down on four points:
1. The 15,000-strong peace force to be deployed in Lebanon (based on the 2,000-member UNIFIL observer force)) is denied a mandate under the UN Charter Chapter 7 to use military force for imposing a ceasefire, disarming Hizballah or creating a buffer zone in S. Lebanon.
2. No mechanism is created to enforce the embargo on arms supplies from Iran and Syria or any other foreign source.
3. In the absence of an effective UN force, no provision is made for the enforcement of UN Security Council resolution 1559 to disarm Hizballah’s militia.
4. The call for an “unconditional release” of the two Israeli soldiers, whose July 12 abduction sparked the conflict, is not accompanied by any tangible steps for its implementation.
Two further points which Nasrallah imposed on the Lebanese government are also reflected in the text. One demands the withdrawal of Israeli troops “in parallel” with the deployment of Lebanese forces for taking control of the south. Israeli soldiers are thus required to pull out before the arrival of the beefed up UN force.
The second is a 30-day deadline handed the UN Secretary Kofi Annan to come up with proposals for solving the Chebaa Farms dispute.
Israel’s military sources note that, while Israel is allowed to continue “defensive operations,” the term “cessation of hostilities” is loose enough for Hizballah to continue fighting and claim it is conducting “legitimate national Lebanese resistance” rather than offensive operations.
debkafile‘s Jerusalem sources reveal that Friday night, when the prime minister accepted the ceasefire resolution, none of his key ministers were willing to second the decision. Olmert ran solo with the announcement without consulting his cabinet or the high military command. In particular he has put up the backs of defense minister Amir Peretz – communications between them are conducted through their military aides – and foreign minister Tzipi Livni, whom he prevented at the last minute from flying to UN Headquarters to fortify the Israeli delegation at the critical vote.
The prime minister has taken over the exchanges with the US secretary of state. According to debkafile‘s sources, he brushed aside suggestions to maintain parallel contacts with US Vice President Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who strongly opposed the Rice initiative for an immediate halt to the combat in Lebanon and moves to impose a ceasefire on Israel.
Until Friday night, there was no telephone contact between the prime minister and President Bush either.
As far as the Israeli military command is concerned, the definitive order coming down from government is the one given on Friday a few hours before the Security Council ceasefire resolution, to broaden its offensive up until the Litani. A senior IDF officer told debkafile Saturday morning: Israeli forces are already positioned at two key points on the Litani and deep into an operation in the Tyre district, which is filled with a dense concentration of Hizballah strongholds and rocket sites.
There will be an uncertain interim period as Israeli forces stay in place to make sure no vacuum is formed for Hizballah to recover its positions before the ceasefire is enforced on the ground – as and when this happens. However, the UN secretary is required to report back to the Security Council within a week on how well its resolution has been implemented. Saturday, Kofi Annan said the UN expects an immediate ceasefire to be imposed once the Israeli and Lebanese governments approve the SC resolution. The Lebanese government meets Saturday night and Israeli ministers Sunday, Aug. 13.

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