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Tragedy After Tragedy in Lebanon

Israel must either dig itself deeper into the hole it has made or look for a face-saving multinational force.
 
 
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In the Middle East, it just gets more tragic each time. The Israeli leadership seems determined to repeat every mistake it has made in the past, regardless of the cost to its own people, let alone the leaders, and let alone the rest of the world.

All its previous invasions of Lebanon have led to a strengthened Hezbollah, and according to a Zogby poll, last year even before the invasion, Syria was more popular in Lebanon than the United States. (Israel had zero support from any Lebanese, even the Maronites who look to the "Christian" United States to back them.)

Consider the implications of their arrogance: With the exception of Tony 'Yo' Blair, who is beleaguered by a cabinet revolt disavowing his shameful policy of disappearing up Bush's rectum on the issue, every country in the world wants an immediate ceasefire.

Israel's chutzpah in announcing world-backing for its invasion when the United States effectively vetoed everybody else in Rome, was too much even for the United States, which repudiated it quickly, but one may add quite mendaciously, since it is quite clear the Bush administration is indeed encouraging Olmert in his folly. When Qana again became the focus of IDF barbarism, even Condoleezza Rice insisted on and got a 48-hour halt to the Israeli air assault.

But the woman has no pride. Did she not notice that the so-called halt still allowed Israeli operations in support of ground offensives and retaliation against alleged Hezbollah rocket launch sites? Since that is the excuse that Israel has used for most of its bombing of civilian targets, one wonders whether Rice realized that they were making a fool of her.

And then, in New York, Sen. Charles Schumer announced that he was considering supporting the confirmation of John Bolton -- because he was a strong supporter of Israel. Excuse me, but the last I heard, Bolton's position was ambassador of the United States to the United Nations. Israel has its own vociferous representative at the United Nations. Can you imagine a legislator announcing support for a U.S. ambassador because he was a strong supporter of say, Mexico or Britain?

But of course Schumer is entirely correct in his diagnosis. Bolton, presumably with the full support of the White House, has not only sat on resolutions calling for a ceasefire, he has managed to stonewall and then attenuate a resolution condemning the bombing attack on the U.N. camp at Khiyam, which killed four U.N. observers. Whatever happened to resolution 1502, passed unanimously in the wake of the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, declaring attacks on U.N. personnel on mission to be a war crime?

At a time when most countries of the world are trying to pull together some type of peacekeeping force for the border, the message that the United States sends is that contributors can expect that their soldiers can expect no support whatsoever in the event of a murderous Israeli attack.

The Israeli leadership seems conflicted. On the one hand, it is admitting that it conceived its grand plan with false intelligence (does this sound familiar?), and have met far more opposition and paid a far higher cost than it expected.

So it is poised. Either it follows the neocon plan of digging itself deeper into the hole it has made, and continue its assault, sending in more troops, or it looks for a face-saving multinational force.

The fig leaf for the multinational force would be the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty, symbolized by the disarmament of the militias called for in resolution 1559. But if the sovereign Lebanese government does not want to disarm Hezbollah, how does the international community enhance its sovereignty by forcing it to do something that a majority of the Lebanese, according to the Zogby poll, does not want?

But apart from pulling the Israeli chestnuts out of the fire, what would a U.N. or multinational force achieve? On the current basis, little or nothing. If it robustly defended the border area against Hezbollah, which does after all have the support of most of the people living there, it will be getting the attention that has driven Israel out.

The only way it would have local credibility would be if it tried to resist Israeli incursions into Lebanon, which are in fact much frequent than those going the other way. It can count on zero backing from the United States and, at present, from the United Kingdom.

A payoff that may persuade the Lebanese and Hezbollah could be the handover of the Shaba farms area to Lebanon or to the force. The question here, certainly not helped by Damascus' reticence about Lebanese borders in general is whether the Israelis are occupying Syrian or Lebanese territory. One thing is sure, these are not Israeli territories. In fact they come, like the Golan and the Palestinian territories, under resolution 242, long outstanding, which says the Israelis should get out of them anyway. It would certainly be anomalous to have a U.N. force enforcing Israeli control of annexed territories.

But that returns us to first principles. A Middle East peace does not depend on resolution 1559, which barely scraped by, but on 242, and it is clear that involves pressure on the Israeli government, financial, logistical and diplomatic. With significant portions of the Democratic Party seeming to agree with the White House that they will give Israel unqualified support no matter what it does, no matter how unspeakable, the situation does not look very hopeful.

But at least the other members of the Security Council should be making it plain that there will be no concessions to U.S. polices on Iran, Korea or anywhere else until the United States shows signs of recognizing that international law applies to itself and Israel, as well to others. If they agree to a multinational force, then they should get cast-iron guarantees from NATO and the United States on protection for the force -- including anti-aircraft capability.

And for a ray of hope, here is another ad from Gush Shalom in the Israeli paper Haaretz:

"We warned them
And called on them
To escape!"

That is disgusting
Hypocrisy.

Because we have:
Bombed the roads.
Destroyed the bridges.
Cut off the supply of gasoline.
Killed whole families on the way.

There is only one way
Of preventing more such disasters,
Which turn us into monsters:
TO STOP!

There is no military solution!

Ian Williams' work has appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, The Nation and Salon. He is the author of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 .