A Cascade of Bad News

Reuters sums up the current state of affairs in Lebanon. It’s a grim reckoning:

“It will be a fragile truce,” said a Western diplomat, referring to some early differing interpretations of the resolution by the two sides. *** Israeli officials said the Jewish state believed it would be entitled under the U.N. resolution to use force to prevent Hizbollah from rearming and to clear guerrilla positions out of southern Lebanon after the truce took effect.

Western diplomats and U.N. officials said they feared Israel’s broad definition of “defensive” actions could lead to a resurgence in large-scale fighting and prevent the swift deployment of the U.N. troops, likely to be led by France.

So if fighting continues, it will be Israel’s fault. And what was that reference to “rearming”? Hezbollah has never been disarmed, and has no need to “rearm.” On the contrary:

Hizbollah launched its heaviest one-day rocket barrage on Israel on Sunday since the start of the war. Israeli security officials said more than 250 rockets were fired, killing a man and wounding about 90 people.

So Hezbollah goes out on top. My guess is that the IDF has had quite a bit of success in killing terrorists, but that will go largely for naught as no one knows about it, and Hezbollah’s claims of victory will be deemed credible:

The Israeli army said around 530 Hizbollah guerrillas had been killed during the war. Hizbollah has acknowledged only a few dozen dead during the war.

Worst of all: after all this, no provision has been made for the return of the Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped by the terrorists:

The Haaretz newspaper reported the government was willing to discuss a possible release of Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the freeing of the two captured Israeli soldiers.

Isn’t this where we came in? The conventional wisdom is that Hezbollah kidnapped the soldiers (after murdering six of their comrades) in the expectation that the outcome would be another prisoner exchange. Now, after a month of fighting, Israel has agreed to a deal that does not involve the return of its soldiers, and contemplates a future exchange of prisoners, more or less as Hezbollah hoped for in the first place. Only now Israel will be negotiating from a position of weakness.

Both Israel’s government and ours will try to suggest that this cease-fire is consistent with the rather limited goals that Israel articulated from the beginning of the conflict. But there was never a list of objectives that did not include the return of the kidnapped soldiers. How could Olmert’s government have agreed to a deal that did not even cover that fundamental, and relatively achievable, point? Who could possibly believe that Hezbollah will be disarmed, when Israel can’t even get its kidnapped soldiers back?

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has insight into the thinking of Olmert’s government:

Israel intends to abide by the cease-fire when it takes effect on Monday morning, even though senior Israeli officials assume that Hizbullah will not honor it, officials close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday night.

The officials said the working assumption at the Prime Minister’s Office was that Hizbullah would not honor the agreement and that the world would then comprehend Israel’s predicament more than ever. At press time, the Lebanese cabinet had not given final approval to the cease-fire.

“When Hizbullah violates the cease-fire, the world will see who the aggressor is and will understand us,” a source close to Olmert said.

The agreement will certanly fail. But how that will help Israel remains a mystery. Somehow, I don’t think that “the world” will “comprehend Israel’s predicament more than ever.” Meanwhile, Haaretz confirms that Hezbollah has no intention of disarming:

A meeting of the Lebanese government on the disarming of Hezbollah south of the Litani River was canceled on Sunday following an announcement by the Shi’ite organization that it was not willing to discuss the subject.

PAUL adds: Any argument that contains the phrase “the world would then comprehend Israel’s predicament more than ever” should be dismissed out of hand, and the author should be deemed worse than a fool.

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