(photo credit: Associated Press)
The draft Security Council resolution that, if approved, would call for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah was met with a slew of rejections on Sunday.
Both Lebanon and Syria stated unequivocally that the draft's most controversial provision - the IDF remaining in place even after the end of fighting - was unacceptable.
The positions of these two countries, who would play central roles in convincing Hizbullah to cease firing rockets into Israel, did not bode well for the fate of the draft resolution, which will be debated in the Security Council early this week.
"We always spoke about an immediate cease-fire. We never spoke about ending military operations because this is in a way like legitimatizing the occupation, as if the war is being legitimatized," said Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on Sunday that the draft's current language was "a recipe for the continuation of the war."
All this only reinforced the impression that the resolution's approval would be a victory for Israel, which has insisted on keeping its troops in place until a robust multinational force took control of southern Lebanon. Since any such force would only receive its mandate in a second resolution - which will not be voted on until two weeks after the first - the question of who would insure Israel's gains in pushing Hizbullah away from the border was always going to be an issue.
The draft resolution offers an answer in its call "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 implication here is clearly that Israel could maintain its positions and even act to defend them.
Even US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seemed to anticipate difficulties with passing the resolution when she spoke on Sunday from President George W. Bush's vacation home in Crawford, Texas.
"We're trying to deal with a problem that has been festering and brewing in Lebanon now for years and years and years," Rice said. "And so it's not going to be solved by one resolution in the Security Council."
She said the resolution, by requiring Hizbullah to stop firing missiles, would be a kind of litmus test for the group. "I know Hizbullah has said all kinds of things. I've heard, 'We should have an immediate cease-fire,' I've heard, 'We'll keep fighting,' I've heard all of those things," she said. "When this UN Security Council resolution is passed, we're going to know who really did want to stop the violence and who didn't."
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, speaking on CNN Sunday morning, made a similar point. The Lebanese government's ability to abide by the resolution, he said, would demonstrate whether it was they or Hizbullah that had real control of the country. "The major problem is whether there are two governments in Lebanon or one government," Peres told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "The resolution is about the fate of Lebanon."
The 15 members of the Security Council will meet on Monday to begin the public debate on the draft resolution.
Japanese Ambassador to the UN Kenzo Oshimi, who sits on the Security Council, told reporters, "I think everybody agrees that the resolution be adopted as soon as possible - by Monday, if possible." But, he said, "It is very difficult to expect either the Lebanese government or the Israeli government to fully like it. Any resolution that can enjoy the full support of the council will be something that will aim at the middle ground and not to please one party to the exclusion of the other."
UN officials said that opposition was expected from Qatar, another council member.
As for the permanent council members, officials said Russia resented having been left out of the deliberations over the draft, conducted primarily among the US, France and Britain. Russian unhappiness might translate into a veto, or at least an abstention.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the leaders of other Security Council member states, to try and insure their support. A Blair spokesman told The Associated Press that the calls were "lengthy conversations... about how to secure the maximum amount of support for the UN resolution." He added, "Everyone wants to see agreement on a resolution as quickly as possible."