IDF Leaves Bint Jbail as UN Plan Materializes
On Saturday afternoon, the IDF pulled out of Bint Jbail and returned to the Israeli side of the border just as more ground incursions are being geared up. Hizballah capitalized on the Israeli pull back as Hassan Nasrallah declared that Hizballah had dealt the IDF a severe blow saying “This elite force was fleeing and scurrying like mice from the battleground.” An IDF general dismissed the claim, saying that ground plans have always been to keep from getting bogged down in any one place. Leaving Bint Jbail, regardless of any plan, naturally gives Hizballah a media tool for open use for such claims.
But while the IAF struck multiple targets on a day once again full of sorties, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was back in Tel Aviv once more looking to draw Israel, Lebanon, and Hizballah closer to a UN resolution penned by France that intends to bring about a cease fire. As reported in Haaretz, the French proposed resolution includes:
- The release of abducted Israeli soldiers and “settlement of issue” of Lebanese prisoners in Israel.
- Disarmament of all militia in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, and the deployment of the Lebanese army along the Israeli-Lebanese border and throughout the country.
- A buffer zone in southern Lebanon between the Israeli border and the Litani River, free of any armed personnel and weapons, except those of the Beirut government’s security forces and UN-mandated international forces.
- Annan, in coordination with regional and international parties, is to help secure agreement in principle from Lebanon and Israel for a political framework on the above cease-fire conditions.
- The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, after fighting has stopped, is to monitor implementation of an agreement and help humanitarian access and the return of the homeless.
- Delineation of international borders in Lebanon, especially the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms area, now part of Syria but claimed by Lebanon. Hizballah, before the current fighting, has used the Shebaa Farms to justify armed resistance against Israel.
- The Security Council, after confirmation that Lebanon and Israeli have agreed in principle on a political framework for a sustainable cease-fire, should authorize deployment of an international force to support the Lebanese armed forces.
Many see this as yet another written decree with a paper demand to have Hizballah disarmed without the will to bring disarmament about. Hizballah will most assuredly not disarm under the weight of a UN resolution any sooner than they did for UN Resolution 1559 which called for the same.
Naim Kassem, Hizballah’s own deputy chief, said of any plan to disarm the terrorist group, “America and Israel have no right to get a result from their defeat. There is no victory for America and Israel for them to make political gains.”
Disarming Hizballah will only happen with armed forces willing and prepared to fight in the Bekaa Valley. Not even the Israeli army has ventured into that area, nor does the French proposal suggest anything north of the Litani River, barely on the southern edge of the Bekaa Valley.
Beyond the elements of the French proposal, such as the “settlement of the issue” of Lebanese prisoners in Israel (read: prisoner swap), much of Europe has been virulently harsh towards Israel after the killing of eight soldiers and abduction of two still held. Former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has been publicly fighting Tony Blair for his support of Israel in its fight with Hizballah, making public speeches in open criticism, calling for a harsher line on Israel. Said Straw in a speech, “Disproportionate action only escalates an already dangerous situation. One of many serious concerns I have is that the continuation of such tactics by the Israelis could further destabilize the already fragile Lebanese nation.”
But, like much of Europe, Straw’s view fails to properly acknowledge that Hizballah attacks Israel from positions purposely and strategically embedded within its own civilian populations for the purpose of generating such admonishment of its Israeli enemy. Mr. Straw is not alone and his position not unique.
This position has been the impetus behind intense European pressure on Israel’s Knesset members to bring a halt to IDF operations and accept the French-penned UN ceasefire agreement. The weight behind Europe’s pressure is heavy, as the EU accounts for one-third of all Israeli export trade. With reports that Israel has about 7 to 10 days to wrap up operations coinciding with the report of a new ground offensive and an up-tick in operational tempo, the next week’s events will tell how effective the European pressure has been.