hizbullah supporters 88.
(photo credit: )
Israel is back in Lebanon; this is not unusual. What is unusual is that the international community seems, finally, to agree that it is in its interest to help Israel create new circumstances that would remove the need for it to return to Lebanon again.
At a press conference after meeting EU envoy Javier Solana, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni noted that Israel's objectives were endorsed by both the G8 leaders at their recent summit and by the EU. Those objectives are the release of Israel's kidnapped soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon, an end to the missile attacks from Gaza and Lebanon, and the immediate implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559. That resolution requires the deployment of Lebanon's military throughout its territory, the dismantling of Hizbullah and the prevention of its rearmament.
The international community's commonality of purpose with Israel even extends, to a great degree, to the Palestinian case as well. It is agreed that direct international support for the Palestinian Authority is dependent on Hamas preventing terrorism, recognizing Israel's right to exist and accepting previous agreements. At least on paper, in other words, Israel's objectives and those of the US, Europe, and the UN, are the same.
Israelis have the right to be skeptical about what such international support in principle means in practice. For example, in the same press conference with Livni in which Solana stressed Europe's demand that kidnapped Israeli soldiers be returned, terrorism end, and Israel's right to self-defense be supported, he also said this:
"I have been in Lebanon, I have spent a night in Lebanon and I see the suffering of the people. And I do not see what that has to do with the battle against Hizbullah. The battle against Hizbullah is important. Another thing is to weaken a country."
It is, of course, notable that Solana straightforwardly endorses our "battle against Hizbullah" when, just a short time ago, Israel lobbied without success for France and other European nations to label Hizbullah a terrorist organization. But it is also striking that Solana can see no need to hold Lebanon accountable for not using its 50,000-man army to disarm the 7,000-man Hizbullah militia that all agree plunged Israel and Lebanon into war.
Even during this crisis, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh presented a draft resolution in the UN defending Hizbullah and asserting its right to "resist occupation by all legitimate means." It is also assumed that Lebanese radar stations gave Hizbullah, which has no radar capabilities, the coordinates of our navy ships off Beirut, allowing Hizbullah to hit one of them with a missile, killing four Israeli soldiers.
It is the Lebanese government, in the six years since Israel withdrew completely from Lebanon, that has allowed its territory to be used for Iranian and Syrian proxy warfare against Israel.
In the past, the Lebanese government lacked both the will and possibly the ability to confront Hizbullah, which is represented in the Lebanese parliament and a major player in its politics. Israel's operation is designed to address both aspects: making clear that there is a high price to pay for the government's not taking responsibility for its territory, and greatly degrading Hizbullah's presence so the Lebanese army can take Hizbullah's place in the south.
Israel, it seems, has a green light from the world to, as best as it can, destroy Hizbullah. Our government has rightly shown determination to do so regardless. But even it were possible to militarily eliminate this organization in the short term, there would remain the challenge to prevent Syria and Iran from rebuilding a means of proxy warfare against Israel.
For this challenge to be met, the international community has to not only agree with Israel on basic objectives, as it increasingly does now, but be willing to help physically prevent the rebuilding of a threat against Israel.
UN Resolution 425 and UNIFIL, the force it created, were designed to "confirm Israel's withdrawal" - in other words, to protect Lebanon from Israel. By now it should be obvious this approach was completely distorted, and was bad for Lebanon and for Israel. If today's diplomacy is to promote peace, it must be designed, instead, to facilitate, confirm and make permanent Hizbullah's defeat.