Saturday, July 29, 2006


Israel's strategy in and out of Lebanon

Many voices in Israel call for a bigger ground operation in Lebanon. This move has been delayed by the Israeli government given the last days of fighting with Hezbollah. Hezbolla's anti-tank capabilities makes a long stay very dangerous. Since no other army "volunteers" to replace the Israeli army ; Israel will enter Lebanon only after it makes sure it has a way out.

Haaretz reported that Italy, Germany, Ireland, France and Turkey have said they are considering joining a United Nations run multinational force. On the other hand, Israel US and Portugal are reported to support a European Union led international force. In diplomatic language it sounds like this:

Rice said the terms and conditions of a such a cease-fire would involve "a multinational force under UN supervision" that would have a mandate to enforce a peace agreement.

This may look like a subtle matter, but in fact it is substantial. For years, the UN has kept forces in Lebanon, which did nothing more than sun bathing. Israel's criticism was at its peak in 2000 when the UN has denied a video tape that records the kidnapping of 3 of its soldiers by Hezbollah. The Hezbollah, dressed up as UN soldiers kidnapped 3 Israeli soldiers outside a UNIFIL outpost. The vehicle was caught on a UN camera, but Israel was not given a notice about that - something that could have saved the soldiers lives. Eventually Israel released thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the three soldiers' bodies, and a suspected Israeli drug dealer (that knew too many military secrets). This deal has increased Nassrala's political power, and marked the end of a UN led force in Lebanon.

Ironically, once a peace-keeping force will be agreed upon, Israel will restart the fighting by mobilizing three divisions into southern Lebanon and force Hezbollah out. On the other hand, this force could be used just as a warning for Hezbollah (not to resist the international force deployment in southern Lebanon).

Israel has also repeated its demand that the Hezbollah will not be re-armed by Syria. This requires two things. First, an agreement with Syria, and second for the international force to be deployed also on the Syrian-Lebanese border. This probably explains why the EU is reluctant to send it soldiers and get involved in this mess. Israel is practically asking the EU to put their money where their mouth is.

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