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New Formulas Still Falling Short

Prepared by: Michael Moran
Updated: August 8, 2006


Efforts to end the bloodshed between Israel and Hezbollah have faltered anew as the painstaking UN Security Council talks on a cease-fire resolution produced a document that pleased few and angered many. The draft resolution (NYT), hammered out primarily by France and the United States, quickly drew fire from all sides. Though U.S. officials claim Israel and Lebanon had pledged to support it, in public neither would do so (VOA), sending diplomats back to the drawing board. Hezbollah says it will not agree to halt its rocket attacks until Israeli troops leave Lebanese soil and consent to a prisoner swap. Israel, meanwhile, says before it halts its offensive an international buffer force must be deployed (a force which, so far, does not even exist on paper). Foreign Policy looks at who might join. Lebanon has offered 15,000 of its own troops to guard the border (Daily Star). In the absence of consensus and creativity, the fighting—and dying—continues. Peter Bouckaert, senior emergencies researcher for Human Rights Watch, says there's "a sense of self-righteousness on both sides of the conflict, and a willingness to look away from abuses committed on both sides."

The Security Council, of course, can only propose what its most powerful states—the five permanent members—agree to. The draft rejected over the weekend represented a consensus among these powers, yet appeared strangely detached from the thinking of the combatants. That may not be surprising. Israel is determined to extract a high price for the damage Hezbollah has done to its military reputation. And Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's prime minister, says his country has had "bad experiences with the troops of former colonial and mandate powers in this part of the world" (Spiegel). With Siniora echoing Hezbollah's conditions for a cease-fire, Arab states vowed to pressure the Security Council to better reflect those concerns in the next draft (Haaretz).

Israel insists progress continues toward its goal of "degrading" Hezbollah militarily. Others say the terrorist group may be winning a more important propaganda victory. "There is a serious gap between the realities of the military campaign on the ground to degrade Hezbollah's capabilities and this perception campaign," former IDF General Michael Herzog told a Brookings conference last week (PDF). The suspicion widely expressed among Arab and European diplomats that Washington would prefer to give Israel time to finish the degrading job, in spite of some 700 Lebanese civilian deaths, prompts even deeper questions about the efficacy of the American position. Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, tells in a new interview that Syria can play a helpful role in resolving the conflict but continues to be ignored by the Bush administration.

Maher Othman, Arab news editor of the London-based newspaper al-Hayat, charges that by exercising "state terrorism," Israel and the United States have provoked a greater desire for resistance by people in the region. The Economist, more subtly, skewers the American approach as "To Israel with Love." "So what?" retorts Tony Blankley in the Washington Times: "The majority of people around the world—what we respectfully call 'world opinion'—are rarely right about much of anything."

For deeper reading, Lee Feinstein, a former senior Defense and State department official, explains some of the elements that go into successful peacekeeping forces (FT).Two new Backgrounders look at the legacy of multilateral peacekeeping in the conflict, as well as the long history of UN resolutions, mostly unheeded.

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