It is impossible to speak of a Hizbullah victory’ when nearly a thousand Lebanese civilians have been killed, thousands more injured, a million people internally displaced; and Lebanon’s infrastructure, environment and economy laid to waste as the world watches.
The general consensus however is that Hizbullah’s and Lebanon’s steadfastness after four weeks of merciless Israeli attacks means that Israel has failed to achieve its objectives through military means: crushing/disarming Hizbullah, reinstating its deterrent, and protecting the security of northern Israel. Indeed, Hizbullah’s resistance has gained unprecedented support throughout the Arab world, and Nasrallah has emerged as a Nasser-like figure who has restored pride to Arabs everywhere in contrast to the uniformly servile and unpopular Arab regimes.
The draft UN resolution proposed by the US and France on Saturday thus seems strangely out of place, as though Israel had won this war decisively and is in a position to dictate the terms. The draft does not reflect either the reality of a balance of terror that clearly exists between Hizbullah and Israel today, or the political unity that this war has created in Lebanon and across the Arab world. As such, it has come as a shock to many people in the region. In the words of the influential Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri (who is mediating between Hizbullah and the Lebanese government), “if Israel did not win the war and it gets all this, what would have happened if it had won the war?”
Here are some preliminary observations on this draft resolution:
1. It clearly adopts the Israeli narrative that this war was begun by Hizbullah”referred to dismissively as an “armed group” “on 12 July when it “abducted” (as opposed to “captured”) two Israeli soldiers, and makes clear that to prevent the “resumption of hostilities” Hizbullah must be banned in all areas between the Blue Line and Litani River. Elsewhere, the text refers to the Sheba’a farms as “disputed or uncertain” as opposed to “occupied.”
2. It calls for a “cessation of hostilities” until an international force is deployed, as opposed to the “immediate cease fire” that the Lebanese government has repeatedly demanded. This gives Israel the face-saving mechanism it needs to justify the heavy costs of this war to its own public, given its pledge not to stop the war until an international force is in place in southern Lebanon.
3. It further calls on Hizbullah to cease all “attacks” while Israel must only cease “offensive military operations.” Given that Israel has all along stated that this war is in self-defense, this phrasing clearly gives Israel the green light to continue to hit Hizbullah targets whenever it interprets the need for self defense.’ And since ‘Hizbullah targets’ apparently includes the full spectrum of civilian installations throughout the country as well as all civilians in Lebanon, Israel could interpret this to mean a green light for the continuation of its onslaught.
4. It refers to the “unconditional release” of Israeli soldiers, but only to “encouraging the efforts aimed at resolving the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel.” It says nothing about the exchange of prisoners, a key Lebanese demand.
5. It does not heed Lebanon’s demand for an immediate lifting of the Israeli siege of Lebanon. Rather it makes clear that airports and ports will be reopened only for “verifiably and purely civilian purposes.” In other words, everyone and everything going in and out of the country will be monitored, thus turning Lebanon into a new Gaza.
6. There is no mention of an international investigation into Israel’s savage attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure as Lebanon’s Prime Minster has repeatedly demanded. There is moreover no reference to war crimes, international humanitarian laws or the Geneva Conventions.
7. The heart of this draft resolution calls for a permanent ceasefire based on the disarming of “all armed groups in Lebanon” under UN resolution 1559, and the deployment in Lebanon (as opposed to Israel, or both countries) of an “international force” under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to help implement a “long term solution.” The Lebanese government has insisted that the disarming of Hizbullah must be part of Lebanon’s national dialogue in the context of the Taif Accords, and that the Lebanese army should be the main player in securing southern Lebanon, with an expanded UNIFIL there to assist it as needed.
In short, this draft resolution is a major blow to Lebanon, its sovereignty, and its new found political unity and consensus as represented by the government’s much-publicized seven point plan, first unveiled in the Rome Conference of 25 July and later adopted unanimously by the Council of Ministers (that includes Hizbullah) and supported by the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conferences. The draft totally ignores major Lebanese demands, most notably Israel’s withdrawal from any territory it has seized during this war, the placing of Sheba’a farms area under UN control until border delineation is completed, the exchange of prisoners, and the rejection of a Charter VII authorized “international force.” Worse, it waves all culpability of Israel in terms of its deliberate targeting of civilians and consigns the long-established international laws of war to the trashbin.
As expected, the Lebanese government has already rejected the draft outright because it is clearly not a serious attempt to resolve the crisis. Ominously, the draft’s bias seems clearly designed to ensure Lebanon rejects it, thus giving Israel yet more time to continue its carnage in Lebanon. It also seems designed to divide Lebanon once again politically”and potentially along sectarian lines–to isolate Hizbullah. This is extremely dangerous, and may lead to more violent civil conflict or even full-scale war. Much depends on the leadership skills of Prime Minister Siniora who needs to emerge as a genuine national leader if such civil conflict is to be avoided in the coming months.
Overall, then, we can see that this draft UN resolution represents a second wave of US-European-Israeli attacks on Lebanon. While the military assault against Hizbullah has apparently failed, we now enter a diplomatic war that will be even bloodier.
It is clear that, once again, the differences between America and Europe are not over substance but style. In blunt terms, America does not particularly care how much damage is done to Lebanon as long as its objectives are reached, while Europe”and France in particular”want only for Hizbullah to be crushed without the unseemly images produced in villages and cities throughout Lebanon, from Qana in the South to Qaa in the North. Europe, in other words, is entirely complicit with America and Israel in this war. As for the Arab regimes, their support for the Israeli objectives has now been neutralized by Hizbullah’s popularity across the Arab world. The international political will to reach a just, lasting and realistic solution to this conflict”and the larger Palestinian question”clearly does not exist. The violence and destruction of Lebanon will thus continue, and Islamists will reap the long-term political rewards.
The international community as embodied by the United Nations Security Council is, for all intents and purposes, itself waging war on a small, vulnerable Member State; and as such it no longer carries legitimate authority in the Arab world. In this sense Israel, America and Europe can congratulate themselves not only on the total destruction of a country, but on the de-legitimization of the international legal order as we know it.
KARIM MAKDISI is Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Dept of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org