The Challenges of a Ceasefire in Lebanon

The prospect of an imminent ceasefire imposed on both parties raises substantial challenges for the government of Israel.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a UN Security Council resolution enforcing a "lasting settlement" by the end of this week.

Such an arrangement would include the deployment of an international force that will prepare the ground for the Lebanese armed forces to deploy in the south, to dismantle the armed militias within Lebanon including Hizbullah and to stop the smuggling of weapons.

According to Secretary Rice, a ceasefire could be forged this week.

The Reut Institute contends that in the event of an imminent ceasefire, the government of Israel will face several substantial challenges:

  • The Nature and Mandate of the International Force: Israel has demanded a strong international peacekeeping force, willing and able to dismantle Hizbullah and to prevent further attacks. However, the prospects for obtaining such force in the short term and without the consent of Hizbullah are low.
    Therefore, if
    Israel conditions its withdrawal from Lebanon to the arrival of a strong international force, it might be forced to delay the redeployment of troops.
    On the other hand, if Israel aims at quickly withdrawing its forces, it might have to compromise over the mandate of the international force. Yet this could lower the chances of full enforcement of UN resolution 1559 and disarmament of militant groups.

  • The Reversed Sequence of the Negotiations: When negotiating a ceasefire, Israel has to deal with the conflicting logic regarding the sequence actions that leads to a ceasefire.
    Hizbullah claims that the issue of dismantling its militias can only be addressed after solving all the outstanding issues between Lebanon and Israel, while the government of
    Israel holds that the dismantling of the armed factions is the conditio sine qua non to further the political process and the negotiations. This leads the parties to a potential deadlock.

  • The Dichotomy of Logics: Hizbullah is claiming that its actions against Israel are to be seen as aimed to solve all "outstanding Issues" between Israel and Lebanon, i.e. to "release" the Shebaa Farms, release Lebanese prisoners in Israel and cease the violation of Lebanese air space by the Israeli Air Force.
    However, forces of Permanent Resistance against
    Israel, such as Hizbullah, are using "outstanding issues" as a pretext to continue the struggle against Israel.
    In reality, Hizbullah can not agree on finality of claims, as the continuation of the struggle against Israel is its raison d'être. Thus, even if outstanding issues between Lebanon and Israel are met in negotiations, the Permanent Resistance will come up with new pretexts to continue the struggle against Israel.

Due to this diverging logics and priorities, establishing a temporary ceasefire despite the presence of a permanent resistance will represent a complex challenge for the Government of Israel.

Sources

  • Herb Keinon, The Jerusalem Post, 31/07/06, Full text.
  • Aluf Benn, Haaretz, 31/07/06, Full text.