- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

“As we work with friends and allies, it is important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah’s unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel,” President Bush said one week ago. “Israel is exercising its right to defend itself.” Mr. Bush further noted that “stopping for the sake of stopping” Israel’s military offensive against Hezbollah “won’t address the root cause” of the problem: Hezbollah’s malevolent behavior. In this context, it’s very difficult to understand how the larger campaign to defeat Islamofascism will benefit from the administration’s agreement with France on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would effectively halt Israel’s military campaign against Hezbollah’s terror network — even as the group has dramatically stepped up attacks on the Jewish state.

Hezbollah, incidentally, says it won’t abide by any cease-fire agreement unless Israeli troops leave Lebanon, and that isn’t going to happen anytime soon because the Israelis have not suddenly become delusional or suicidal. Although Lebanon is just about the last place Israelis want their army to occupy, they realize full well that a premature withdrawal would represent a strategic disaster and a victory for Hezbollah and Tehran.

The draft resolution, which is expected to be voted on in the next two days, couples a call for “immediate cessation” of all attacks by Hezbollah with a cessation of “offensive military operations” by Israel. Responsibility for policing southern Lebanon would be turned over to the ineffectual United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which would ostensibly be strengthened by the addition of French rapid-reaction troops (who presumably would not be chased out of Lebanon by Hezbollah as they and the United States were following the Oct. 23, 1983 bombings which killed nearly 300 Marines and French troops in Beirut.)

The U.S.-French plan envisages the Security Council enacting two resolutions: In addition to the draft resolution mentioned above, there would also be a second one creating a procedure to disarm Hezbollah, order an international embargo on arms shipments to Lebanon (in the hope of preventing Hezbollah from rearming) and enable the Lebanese Army to deploy in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese Army has approximately 70,000 troops, including a huge number of Shi’ites — many of whom are thought to be sympathetic to Hezbollah.

Bush administration officials told the New York Times that the White House recognized that the agreement represented a significant backing away from Washington’s earlier insistence that no cease-fire be declared before there was clarity on how it would be enforced. “There is considerable risk in this two-stage approach,” said one official, pointing to the possibility that a second resolution might not be adopted or that Hezbollah could use any cessation of hostilities to resupply.

Supporters of the Washington-Paris agreement have a fallback position: that if Hezbollah refuses to go along, it will be exposed before the world for its intransigence. But this argument is hardly persuasive, given that Hezbollah’s 24-year record of bellicosity should already be clear to any reasonable person. A more likely scenario is that the usual suspects will come up with new reasons not to act (or, more accurately, allow Israel to.) That said, prospects for the deal look bleak right now, with Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and the weak Lebanese government heaping scorn on the proposal as a sellout to Israel. If the deal collapses, the Israel Defense Forces will win more time to complete their important mission against Hezbollah.

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