Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Put up or shut up

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi LivniThat seems to be the response of the Israeli government to the various European foreign ministers and international personalities who are busy imitating headless chickens at the moment.

A number of them went to Israel over the week-end and spent some time telling Israel that a cease-fire might be a good idea but as to how it could be achieved and what would happen afterwards, none of them came up with an answer. At least, Secretary of State Rice, obviously with the President’s agreement, made it quite clear that the United States did not think that a cease-fire that did not include all the participants, including and especially Hezbollah, was anything to go on about.

Meanwhile, as the International Herald Tribune puts it:
“Support is growing for the creation of an international military force to stabilize the Lebanese border with Israel and to bring an end to the fighting. But there is no agreement on the size, mandate or mission of such a force and little enthusiasm around the world for sending troops.”
Not all that useful, really. The United States has already made it clear that it will not be sending any troops and one cannot blame them when one remembers the last time they were in Lebanon. NATO has said that it had not been asked, despite the hints dropped by Israeli politicians, and, in any case, was already stretched too thin.

France has decided to forego the privilege of intervening on Hezbollah’s side and announced that calls for an international force were “premature”. Germany has agreed to send some troops but only if definitely asked by both Israel and Hezbollah.

The great European foreign policy panjandrum, Javier Solana, has announced that “several European states” were ready to provide “all possible assistance” but did not specify who they were and what that assistance might consist of.

A thoroughly frustrated “senior European official” came up with a bitterly funny comment:
“All the politicians are saying, 'Great, great' to the idea of a force, but no one is saying whose soldiers will be on the ground. Everyone will volunteer to be in charge of the logistics in Cyprus.”
Unexpectedly, the new Israeli government that had been discounted by so many commentators because it is not led by a politician with an extensive military experience (some experience Olmert had, like most Israelis, but he is no Sharon), is acting tough with the “international community” and, in particular, the Europeans, whose representatives emerged looking rather sheepish from the round of talks this week-end.
“For the moment, at least, Israel is laying out an ambitious view of what the force would do. Israel wants it to keep Hezbollah away from the border, to allow the Lebanese government and army to take sovereign control over all of its territory, to monitor Lebanon's borders to ensure that Hezbollah is not resupplied with weapons and to help implement a UN Security Council resolution calling for the dismantling of all nongovernmental militias, including Hezbollah.

The 2004 resolution also calls for the expulsion of all foreign fighters, including any Syrian advisers and Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who have helped train Hezbollah since it was established by Iran in 1982.

Livni laid out the goals in a meeting on Sunday with a British Foreign Office minister, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy of France, telling them that Israel's goal was to disarm Hezbollah and that either the Israeli Army or an international force would have to do it, officials familiar with the meeting said.

The Europeans, including Britain, France and Germany, envision a much less robust international buffer force that would operate with the consent of the Lebanese government to support the deployment of its army in the south. Such a plan would mean that Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government, would have to consent to its own disarming and the protection of Israel, a situation that European officials see as far-fetched.”
Far-fetched to the point of absolute impossibility, as is the idea of an adequate international
"The Europeans want us to stop, and we wonder how badly they want us to stop," an Israeli official said. "It's unacceptable for them to say cease-fire and then wash their hands of the consequences. If you're not part of the solution, then don't complain."
Exactly. Put up or shut up. Everyone is good at criticizing Israel (and at times it deserves criticism like any other country) but nobody has the first idea of how to deal with the overwhelming problems that country faces day after day. And, let us not forget, the enemy they are fighting is our enemy as well.

Meanwhile the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora will lead an extensive Lebanese delegation to Rome where they will meet Romano Prodi and proclaim the need to stop Israeli aggression and to liberate the whole of Lebanon. It is not quite clear who they want to liberate it from since, at least nominally, Hezbollah is not a foreign force.

Prodi has already called for an end to Israeli attacks but, like everyone else, has not managed to come up with any solutions to the rather difficult situation.

According to Gulfnews:
“U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for the meeting, which includes ministers and diplomats from Britain, Italy, Spain, the United States, Germany, Canada, Russia, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the European Union, the World Bank, the United Nations.

Israel and Syria have not been invited to attend.”
Neither has Iran, by the looks of it, and Hezbollah has already refused any cease-fire that might involve its disarmament. Then again, Deutsche Welle gives a different list of possible participants:
“Italian government sources told AFP that Israel could also be present at the high-level gathering, which will include representatives from Britain, Egypt, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Spain as well as the United Nations and the World Bank. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said he would use the meeting to demand an end to the fighting, which has killed more than 360 people in Lebanon, along with at least 37 Israelis.”
According to the same news item, “the United States increasingly estranged from European and Arab allies”, for which there is no evidence as nobody wants to intervene in Lebanon and, as we have pointed out before, Arab support for Hezbollah has not been forthcoming. Even the calls for cessation of Israeli military activity have been somewhat half-hearted.

Did I say headless chickens?


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