The 35-day-old Israel-Hezbollah war ended at 8 a.m. on Monday after a UN-brokered cease-fire went into effect. The toll: over 1,000 dead, 4,000 wounded and one million rendered homeless on the Lebanese side; 114 soldiers and 53 civilians killed and nearly 1,000 wounded on the Israeli side.
By the time I was writing this article (on Monday afternoon), both sides were observing a truce, after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a cease-fire. However, violation of the cease-fire was highly possible.
This truce hangs by a thread so much so that the tiniest incident could cause the cease-fire’s collapse; more so, it will be very difficult to maintain this truce. To make matters worse, UN Resolution 1701, ushered in a period of tentative calm, does not clearly define the cease-fire.
In fact, the text of Resolution 1701 is very ambiguous; it only serves Israel’s interests as well as protect the Jewish state. Or else, Israel would have rejected it outright.
Lebanon, the other party of the cease-fire, apparently accepted the truce to avoid further harm to its people and infrastructure from Israeli bombardment. Hezbollah, on the other hand, accepted the resolution and cease-fire, because it had no other option than to abide by the Lebanese government’s decision. It could not challenge the decision.
The resolution contains some conflicting statements that can jeopardize the truce. The most obvious contradiction is that it allows the Israeli army to retaliate when attacked or even feels threatened. This language allows Israel to define an attack or threat against the Jewish state, which means Israel can do whatever it wishes. In fact, Israeli troops reportedly killed a Hezbollah member who threatened them in spite of the ongoing cease-fire. Israel will probably hit convoys suspected of carrying weapons to Hezbollah, and justify its actions by claiming that it “felt threatened.” Israel said its ban on “unauthorized” traffic in southern Lebanon remains in effect, even though the cease-fire is in effect. Then, how will aid reach the needy and how will displaced people return to their villages and towns? The UN is probably thinking about these points and taking the necessary precautions.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is saying, “We will fight until the last Israeli soldier leaves Lebanon. This is our right.” Israel might have withdrawn some of its troops, but it still has about 30,000 soldiers in southern Lebanon, and is saying, “We will not withdraw our troops from southern Lebanon until UN and the Lebanese forces are deployed in the area.”
What happens next? When and how will the severely weakened Lebanese army be deployed in southern Lebanon, and will it be able to get things under control quickly? Furthermore, when will the reinforced UN peacekeeping force take command of southern Lebanon, even though many critical issues such as which countries will contribute forces and their mandate remain to be addressed? How will it treat Hezbollah when it takes over control? Who (and how) will disarm Hezbollah, which says it will not lay down arms? Many similar questions have no satisfying answers, and it seems difficult to find these answers in the near future. The responsible authority to answer these questions is the Lebanese government, which has been assigned to bear this huge burden by the Resolution 1701.
Israel is convinced, it can achieve through international diplomacy, that is, through Resolution 1701, what it could not accomplish in war. In short, Israel has assigned the duty of disarming Hezbollah to the Lebanese government. Will Hezbollah agree to disarm and renounce its military activities? The answer depends on expected and unexpected developments that are likely to occur in the coming days…