Senior government officials in Israel expressed satisfaction at the draft of the UN Security Council resolution on Lebanon Saturday night, saying it safeguarded a number of key Israeli interests - foremost that the IDF would remain in south Lebanon until an international force arrives.
The US and France agreed on a draft Saturday that calls for a full cessation of the fighting but preserves Israel's right to respond if attacked. The Security Council was scheduled to debate the resolution later Saturday in New York, and it was expected to come to a full vote "in another couple of days."
The draft "calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbullah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations." The resolution also calls for UNIFIL, "upon cessation of hostilities," to monitor the resolution's implementation and to extend its assistance on humanitarian issues. It did not, however, call for the immediate withdrawal of IDF troops.
Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Sunday that the draft resolution was good for Israel, but the country still had military goals to meet in Lebanon.
"Even if it is passed, it is doubtful that Hizbullah will honor the resolution and halt its fire," Ramon told Israel's Army Radio. "Therefore we have to continue fighting, continue hitting anyone we can hit in Hizbullah, and I assume that as long as that goes on, Israel's position, diplomatically and militarily, will improve."
Ramon said that even if the UN passed a cease-fire resolution, Israel would not withdraw from a buffer zone several kilometers (miles) deep in south Lebanon until the international force arrived.
"There is no doubt that until a multinational force arrives ... Israel will remain in the security zone it is in now, and no one can act against Israel," he said. "A cease-fire, if it comes, will be one that leaves Israel in a zone of six, seven, eight kilometers (four to five miles)."
"If we see there are launchers who are going to fire Katyusha (rockets) at Israel, we have the right to respond," he said.
Israeli officials interpreted the text to mean that the IDF would remain in south Lebanon to ensure that Hizbullah did not move back into the area once the fighting stopped.
This would be a major victory for Israel, which has insisted it must have the right to respond if Hizbullah launches missiles against it. France and many other nations had demanded an immediate, unconditional halt to violence.
However, the resolution did not incorporate another key Israeli demand, namely that there would be no deal to end the fighting until an international force - separate from UNIFIL - would be ready to immediately take up its positions.
Rather, according to this draft, the Security Council would only authorize a new international force for the region once Israel and Lebanon agree to a series of principles laid out in this resolution. This sequencing was considered a victory for the French.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was meeting Saturday night with the "Forum of Seven," his senior cabinet ministers, to discuss the proposal.
Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman made clear on Channel 2 that this proposal was just a draft based on an understanding between the US and France, that there was no agreement on the language at this stage and that many changes could be introduced. He added that the Russians were unhappy at being left out of the process.
Gillerman also said there was Israeli input into the draft, and that Jerusalem had been updated frequently, with numerous conversations between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Each of the 15 countries on the Security Council have Middle East experts, and they were all now expected to deliberate on the draft over the next two or three days, Israeli officials said. As a consequence, they said, the government would not - out of "tactical considerations" - formally respond to the resolution until it was finalized.
The officials said that another important aspect of the resolution from Israel's perspective was that while it called for the unconditional release of the kidnapped IDF soldiers, it indicated that the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel would be part of a longer process.
Other elements in the proposal that were looked upon favorably were the call for an arms embargo of any group in Lebanon besides the government in Beirut and the establishment of a zone running from the northern border to the Litani River that would be free of any armed personnel other than the Lebanese army or an international force.
Less positive for Israel was the reference to settling the Shaba Farms (Mount Dov) issue, which would likely mean giving up the area to Lebanon after the UN declares that it is part of Lebanon, not Syria. Syria has been unwilling to give its claim to the area to Lebanon.
The Jerusalem Post has learned, however, that two months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed with the Americans to that this issue would be resolved after UN Security Council Resolution 1559 was implemented, Hizbullah was removed from the area and the UN declared the region part of Lebanon.
The US-French draft resolution, Israeli officials stressed, was just the first of two resolutions on the situation in Lebanon.
While this resolution is expected to be declarative, the next one - expected to be passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would "give it more teeth" - will deal with the makeup and mandate of a multinational force to be sent to Lebanon to "support the Lebanese armed forces and government in providing a secure environment and contribute to the implementation of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution."
The draft resolution asks that Israel and Lebanon agree to a set of principles to achieve a long-term peace. These principles include the following:
â€¢ Strict respect by all parties for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Israel and Lebanon.
â€¢ Full respect for the Blue Line Israel-Lebanon border by both parties.
â€¢ Delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shaba Farms area.
â€¢ Security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed and security forces and of UN mandated international forces.
â€¢ Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords and of Security Council Resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state.
â€¢ Deployment of an international force in Lebanon.
â€¢ Establishment of an international embargo on the sale or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its government.
â€¢ Elimination of foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government.
â€¢ Provision to the UN of remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel's possession.
Any deal will have to gain the acceptance of both Israel and Hizbullah, something that is expected to be difficult. Nevertheless, officials in Jerusalem said the US was expected to "deliver" Israeli approval, while the French would need to get Lebanese - and therefore Hizbullah - agreement.
AP contributed to this report.