katyushas 298 .88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel has essentially given up hope of Hizbullah being disarmed, and instead is now concentrating on ensuring that an arms embargo called for in UN Security Council resolution 1701 be implemented, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Furthermore, senior Israeli officials have made it clear in recent days during talks with foreign governments that Israel realizes a Hizbullah presence south of the Litani River is unavoidable, if for no other reason than because the organization is so well rooted there that the only way to get rid of Hizbullah would be to evacuate the entire region.
What Israel does expect, however, is that the Lebanese Army and the international force that will deploy there ensure that Hizbullah doesn't have offensive weaponry to attack Israel, and that if they do try to attack, there will be someone there to stop them.
The impression Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has left in recent days on her European counterparts during meetings both in Israel and in Europe is that Israel recognizes it is unrealistic for anyone to take away Hizbullah's weapons, and that what is most important at this time is to ensure that there is an effective embargo on any new weapons to Hizbullah.
If the embargo is not effective, Israel has made clear, it will have to act to ensure that it is.
Israel is less concerned about grenades and rifles remaining in Hizbullah's hands, and more about weaponry that gives it offensive capabilities.
Both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni have told various world leaders over the last few days that Israel would not lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon until troops of the new multinational force were on the ground at crossing points in Lebanon to ensure that Iran and Syria do not resupply Hizbullah.
The foreign ministers of the 25 EU countries are to meet on Friday in Brussels to discuss the composition of the force, and its rules of engagement.
The prospect of having to disarm Hizbullah, along with the fear of unclear rules of disengagement, have been largely responsible for European countries' reluctance to send large contingencies to the force.
France's decision Thursday night to send a 2,000-strong contingent to the force, however, is now expected to bring in its wake a greater readiness by other European countries to take part.
In a related development, Olmert, meanwhile, visited the North Thursday for the second time in a week, and dealt with the contentious question about whether he would set up a state commission of inquiry into how the recent war was managed.
During a tour of the hospital in Nahariya he said, "We will now prepare ourselves for any threat, and draw the conclusions, with all the investigations and inquiries which may take place. Not with self-flagellation, not with spite, not with self-accusation which the public has had enough of, but rather with good judgment to attain the best outcome."
Senior sources in the Prime Minister's Office said despite reports to the contrary, Olmert has not yet decided whether to establish a state commission of inquiry to investigate how the war was conducted. He told the cabinet on Sunday that he had consulted with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on the matter, and would inform the cabinet of his recommendation in "a number of days."
Olmert, who met with Nahariya's Mayor Jackie Sabag, as well as the head of the hospital Saul Sasa on Thursday said that the main question he was dealing with was "how to learn the lessons from the achievement and the failures. We plan to give a great boost to the North. That is the mission the government has undertaken and which I have taken upon myself."
Unlike the local leaders Olmert met with earlier this week in Kiryat Shmona, Sabag was not critical of the prime minister. "Several days ago I heard that you were asked, "Where were you?" We know you were here and I wanted to thank you for that," the mayor said.
Olmert said the country would invest some NIS 10 billion in developing the North including $300 million that has been donated from the Jewish communities in the US, "to turn the North into the paradise that it can be."
"We are going to develop the North in unprecedented ways," he said. "This is the real answer to those who have tried to cast a shadow on the State's existence."