The resolutely level-headed Head Heeb offers a positive take on the latest Franco-American UNSC resolution on Lebanon.
The compromise reportedly has the backing of all five permanent Security Council measures, which if true will make it virtually certain to pass. The Israeli and Lebanese governments have both been consulted, and although the IDF brass may be reluctant to give up on the planned push to the Litani and Lebanon is wary of an expanded French role, it would be politically unfeasible for either country to reject the United Nations’ terms. The real question mark is Hizbullah, which would have to accept three conditions that it had vehemently rejected up to today: a ceasefire with IDF troops still on Lebanese soil, an augmented international force south of the Litani, and the loss of its military presence in the border region.
The decisive vote in this respect may be neither the United States nor France but Qatar. Qatar is the sole Arab country currently sitting in the UNSC, and as such has spoken for the Arab world and been the focus of the Arab League’s crisis diplomacy. If the Qatari delegate votes in favor rather than abstaining or dissenting, then Hizbullah could only say no at the price of bucking the United Nations, its own national government and the Arab world. It might be willing to chance the first two, but probably not all three.
If all these hurdles are overcome, then the Israel-Hizbullah war will end on terms that allow everyone to gain something. Israel will have weakened Hizbullah and will get a stable northern border for the first time in more than 30 years, Hizbullah will be able to claim that it fought the IDF to the end, and the Lebanese government will obtain sovereignty over the entire country as well as a chance to resolve its outstanding disputes with Israel. France, as Lebanon’s once and future patron, will increase its regional influence, and even the United States will (against all odds) have played a critical role in brokering the settlement.
This means that the proposed resolution is, at this point, about the best possible end that can be imagined for the whole sorry mess. A war in which all parties can claim achievements is one that is less likely to fester and more likely to provide a foundation upon which the underlying issues can be settled. As Israel has learned from bitter experience, a draw that leads to a resolution of the root conflict is preferable to a victory that doesn’t – the Yom Kippur War ultimately resulted in peace with Egypt while the Six Day War led to nothing but an endless nightmare of occupation. If this war, like the war of 1973, leaves all parties proud but chastened, the not-defeat may have better results in the long term than an unequivocal battlefield victory.
UPDATE: The half-life of hope about anything that involves the combination of the Middle East and UN resolutions is about equal to that of ununoctium.