Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lebanon: Will Diplomacy Prevail in Ghajar?

This editorial was published in Daily Star on 8/11/2010
Israeli officials are once again making noises about an impending withdrawal from the Lebanese territory of northern Ghajar in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

This news, while welcome, can only be greeted with skepticism. First, one must ask whether Israel’s proposal for a withdrawal comes with hidden motives. For example, the plan could simply be a prelude to renewing peace talks with Syria or a means of bargaining with the United States to get more tough on Iran. The move could also merely be a means for Israel to extract more “incentives” from the US in return for complying with international law, much like the advanced fighter planes and security aid that were reportedly promised to it in exchange for a halt to settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Second, Israel’s track record on Resolution 1701 renders the veracity of its announcement suspect. The Israelis have set multiple deadlines for a pullout since they reoccupied the Lebanese half of Ghajar in 2006, only to subsequently ignore their own target dates. Ironically, Israeli leaders’ foot-dragging on this issue – which they frequently claim is necessary to preserve Israel’s security – has served to heighten instability along the border.

The same is true of Israel’s numerous other violations of Resolution 1701, including its serial incursions into Lebanese airspace and ongoing occupation of the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills. These illegal activities bolster the argument of those Lebanese who say that armed resistance is necessary because nothing can be gained from Israel through diplomacy.

Indeed, Israel has disregarded the Security Council’s diplomatic efforts to restore stability to south Lebanon ever since Resolution 270, which condemned Israel’s 1969 air attack on southern Lebanese villages. Resolution 425, issued in the wake of the 1978 invasion, was the first of these to call for Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanese territory. Numerous resolutions since then have urged Israel to abide by international conventions and respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, but all have been violated.

Washington’s track record in encouraging its ally to obey UN resolutions has been equally dismal. Successive US administrations have regarded the Security Council’s decisions as a buffet from which they can pick and choose. Instead of standing steadfastly behind the need for all parties to abide by international law, American presidents have more often blindly supported Israel’s “right to defend itself,” even when its means of doing so are so obviously counterproductive.

If diplomacy is to succeed in eliminating the prospects of another war in Lebanon, it must begin to record some successes. An Israeli pullout from Lebanese territory at a time when its troops are not coming under Hizbullah fire would certainly be a good beginning.

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