A fragile Mideast ceasefire runs the risk of collapse. The region could once again break into war. I am reminded of the adage, be careful what you wish for – you might get it.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an eight-point plan for an enduring ceasefire, cessation of hostilities and resolution of the Israel-Hezbollah war (Gazette, Aug. 8, "Ten questions on the war"). The salient principles included: the recognition of the armed attack by Hezbollah across international boundaries, including the abduction of Israeli soldiers, as the casus belli; the disarming of Hezbollah, which had emerged as a threat to both the safety and security of Israel, and the independence and integrity of Lebanon; the extension of the authority and control of the Lebanese government and Lebanese army throughout southern Lebanon; the establishment of a robust international protection force with the necessary numbers, mandate and mission to assist the government of Lebanon and enforce the ceasefire; the interdiction of all weapons shipments to Hezbollah from both Iran and Syria; and massive reconstruction efforts for the affected areas of both Lebanon and Israel.
The recent adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 gives declaratory support to these principles. But it provides no mechanism or timetable for their implementation. The resolution is in danger of unravelling. A fragile ceasefire could collapse. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni warns of an impeding "explosion." The safety and security of Israel and the independence and integrity of Lebanon could be at risk. Witness the following:
The resolution acknowledges the "need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers." But there is no mechanism or timetable provided for their release. This "urgent" test of the resolution’s implementation has thus far been met with silence and inaction.
The resolution calls for the disarming of Hezbollah – as did its predecessor Resolution 1559. But Hezbollah says it won’t disarm, the Lebanese government says it won’t disarm Hezbollah, while UNIFIL says its mandate does not include the disarming of Hezbollah.
The resolution calls for the extension of Lebanese authority and control throughout South Lebanon -with a demilitarized "Hezbollah-free" zone between the Litani River and the Blue Line. But Hezbollah is returning to southern Lebanon and the proposed demilitarized zone; the Lebanese army in an internal memo to its forces says it identifies with Hezbollah; and Hezbollah continues to act as a state within a state – distributing millions of dollars provided by Iran to assist returning villagers in rebuilding their houses – acts normally undertaken by a state.
The resolution proposes an arms embargo on shipments to Hezbollah, but provides no mechanism for its enforcement, such as a special UN force that would monitor entering points within Lebanon and would enforce the embargo on land, air and sea. Non-enforcement here alone could endanger the resolution and the ceasefire. This is evidenced by the recent Israeli attack on a truck convoy to interdict a weapons shipment to Hezbollah from Syria – which Lebanon called a violation of the ceasefire, and Israel a defensive act to stop a ceasefire violation.
The resolution rightly calls for international assistance in the reconstruction of Lebanon, but makes no mention of any assistance to the affected areas of Israel. This is a clear moral and diplomatic asymmetry given that the resolution acknowledges that the trigger for hostilities was Hezbollah’s armed attack, and that some 4,000 missiles bombarded the citizens of Israel.
Moreover, not only does the resolution not provide any mechanism or timetable for the enforcement of these basic principles, but it is also silent on a number of others, which are no less germane to an effective and just resolution of these hostilities. For example:
It makes no mention of the need for a special UN supervisory force to locate and clear out Hezbollah’s arm caches, bunkers and tunnels, many embedded in civilian areas, and which can become the basis for a new round of armed attacks.
It makes no reference to the pernicious role of Iran as choreographer of the hostilities. Yet it is Iran that trained, armed, financed and instigated its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. It is the Iranian president who, on the eve of the ceasefire, said there are two solutions to the crisis: first, a ceasefire; second, the elimination of Israel. In a word, Iran is a casus belli in and of itself. A resolution that ignores or sanitizes Iranian involvement does not serve the cause of peace.
It makes no reference to Iran and Hezbollah’s genocidal anti-Semitism, which not only is a standing existential threat to the security of Israel and Jews wherever, but a standing violation of the United Nations charter and the fundamental norms of international, humanitarian and criminal law.
It does not call for the closing-down of Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television network – a standing source of incitement to terror, violence and genocide – which is inciting a generation of hatred in and beyond Lebanon.
It is tragic to recall – but imperative to appreciate – that had UN Security Council Resolution 1559 been enforced, there would have been no Hezbollah, no armed attacks, no Israeli response and no casualties, Lebanese or Israeli.
If this Security Council Resolution 1701 is not enforced, we will not only go back to the combustible status quo ante. We will find an emboldened Hezbollah threatening the stability of Lebanon and the security of Israel; an emboldened Hamas believing that only force prevails; and an emboldened Iran further inciting its terrorist proxies.
There is an important diplomatic role for Canada to play – to work toward the effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 before the situation explodes; to assist in the humanitarian efforts for the reconstruction of the affected areas of both Lebanon and Israel; and to hold to account Iran – the most serious threat to international peace and security today.