Such a deal

According to this AP report, the Lebanese government, with the consent of its Hezbollah faction, has approved a cease-fire offer which it hopes will become the framework for an end to hostilities. The key elements are: (1) an immediate cease fire, (2) the release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners, (3) Israeli withdrawal behind the border, (4) resolution of the status of Chebaa Farms, a small piece of land held by Israel and claimed by Lebanon, in favor of Lebanon, and (5) the “disarming” Hezbollah, and (6) the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south, with the strengthening and increasing of the small, lightly armed U.N. peacekeeping force currently there.

A cease fire under these terms would represent a clear victory for Hezbollah. They began the hostilities for the stated purpose of obtaining the release of its prisoners. The deal would not only enable them to accomplish this, but Israel would lose territory (Chebaa Farms) in the process.

The deal apparently contemplates that Hezbollah would disarm. But who would see to it that Hezbollah disarms and stay disarmed? The answer is the U.N. peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army. But the U.N. force has already proved unable and unwilling to do this — it stood by while Hezbollah developed the capacity to bomb Haifa and Israeli towns evern further south. And it’s far from clear that the Lebanese army is a match for Hezbollah in the south or that it has any desire to serve as the protector of Israel. During the current war, the Lebanese government pledged that its army will join forces with Hezbollah if Israel mounts a serious invasion.

Proponents of the deal might respond that, since Israel is not prepared to occupy Lebanon, it will have to rely on the Lebanese army eventually in any case. This may be true. But it doesn’t need to give Hezbollah the face-saving prisoner swap that the terrorists started the hostilities to obtain, or to make more territorial concessions. And the best way to maximize the ability of the Lebanese army eventually to deal with Hezbollah is for Israel to crush Hezbollah in the south. Then there can be a cease fire.

JOHN adds: Anti-terror policy no doubt involves complexities at various points, but the fundamental principle, I think, is quite simple. There are two kinds of terrorists: live terrorists and dead ones. The basic object of anti-terror policy should be to turn the former into the latter. As long as that process is proceeding satisfactorily, it should continue. The time for a cease-fire, it seems to me, is when Hezbollah has more or less run out of live terrorists. I don’t think that moment has yet arrived.


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