Seven steps to stop this war

THE window of time accorded to the Jewish state by the Bush administration for it to carry out operations in Lebanon meant to eradicate Lebanon’s Shia militia, Hezbollah, is gradually closing as a result of mounting pressure from the international community.

By Claude Salhani

Published: Sun 6 Aug 2006, 9:54 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:36 PM

Increasing calls from around the world for a cease —fire can only be ignored up to a certain point with Israel and the United States dragging their heels so long while snubbing the international community. Eventually, even the White House will have to cave —in and in turn pressure Israel to accept a ceasefire.

The good news for Hezbollah is that they have so far managed to resist Israel’s onslaught. Despite the heavy damage to towns and villages and much of the country’s infrastructure, the Israeli army has little proof of having achieved much of their objectives. The bad news for Hezbollah is that this might now change.

Aware of this fact, Israel, it seems, is now shifting gears. The last thing Israel needs is another Hezbollah "victory." The withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from south Lebanon in 2000 was claimed by Hezbollah as a great victory over Israel. Should hostilities cease today, Hezbollah would find itself in a position to claim another victory.

This explains why the war seems to be entering a new — and far more violent — phase as of day 21 of the conflict. This has been demonstrated by renewed and quite fierce clashes in a string of Lebanese towns and villages ranging from Nakoura on the Mediterranean coast to Kfar Kela. Another sign of the war escalating has been the Israeli helicopter —borne commando raid well inland on the ancient city of Baalback. The aim of the raid was to grab and/or kill Hezbollah militants residing in Baalback.

Once a cease —fire is agreed to, the focus will shift from the military to the politicians who will be seeking ways to cement a lasting solution, or as President Bush likes to say, to achieve "A sustainable peace."

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has put forward a seven —point plan which deserves serious attention. The following suggestions are derived from Siniora’s plan.

First and foremost is the urgency of installing a permanent ceasefire, without which a lasting solution would be impossible to implement, and without which the rest of the plan becomes irrelevant. Without a ceasefire Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remains unwelcome in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, where Siniora asked the American secretary of state not to bother visiting, at least not until the US pressures Israel into accepting a permanent and unconditional ceasefire.

Step Two: once the ceasefire is in effect and holding, Israel, and the Lebanese government acting on behalf of Hezbollah and with the assistance of either the Red Cross (or other third parties) begin the exchange of prisoners. Germany has in the past acted as an intermediary between Israel and Hezbollah in prior exchanges of prisoners.

Step Three: with the ceasefire holding and the prisoner exchange completed, Israel would begin evacuating the controversial Shebaa Farms, handing this small swath of territory at the foot of the Golan Heights back to Lebanon.

Part of the dispute over the Farms stems from the fact that Israel insisted they belong to Syria; Syria maintains that the Shebaa Farms is Lebanese territory. The return of the Shebaa Farms to Lebanese sovereignty would put an end to all occupation of Lebanese territory by Israel. Hezbollah, whose militia consistently attacked Israeli military positions in Shebaa would feel justified and would no longer have a reason to retain its weapons. The Shia militia’s raison d’etre as a fighting force would cease.

Step Four: With all Lebanese land coming under Lebanese sovereignty, Hezbollah would begin to hand over its weapons to the Lebanese army. And it’s not entirely impossible that a certain number of Hezbollah militiamen to become integrated into the ranks of the Lebanese army.

Step Five: The United Nations Security Council passes a resolution to create a multinational force "with teeth." A force large enough and powerful enough to act as a deterrent force, and to back up Lebanese army units as they deploy in the south.

Step Six: Deployment of the Lebanese army to the south with the backing of the international force, facilitating the return of close to 1 million refugees who fled the fighting over the last several weeks.

Step Seven: the multinational force deployed along the Lebanese Syrian border to ensure that no further guns and ammunition passes across the border into Lebanon.

The first step, however, is to stop the violence.

Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington, DC.

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