Ceasefire in Lebanon: Not the Final Word

The Reut Institute forewarns that between the coming into force of the ceasefire, and the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon, Hizbullah will attempt to to undermine Resolution 1701 that do not serve the organization's interests.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calls upon the parties to declare ceasefire, after which Israel will withdraw its forces from south Lebanon and the Lebanese army and UNIFIL will deploy. The resolution also calls upon Israel and Lebanon to reach a long-term settlement.

The Reut Institute forewarns that between the coming into force of the ceasefire, and the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon, Hizbullah will attempt to prevent a comprehensive agreement and to undermine the provisions of Resolution 1701 that do not serve the organization's interests.

What is the Issue?

According to Resolution 1701, Israel's withdrawal and the deployment of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL in south Lebanon will be an initial phase, and will not be conditional upon a comprehensive settlement.

The resolution merely calls upon Israel and Lebanon to eventually reach a long-lasting solution (hereinafter: "the second phase") which will be based on principles such as: demilitarizing south Lebanon; implementing UN Resolution 1559 which includes the disarmament of militias; and preventing transfer of arms supply to Hizbullah from third parties.

Between the coming into force of the ceasefire until the withdrawal of the IDF from south Lebanon there will be an "interim period", the length of which is currently assessed to be between a week and 10 days (see statement by UN envoy to the Middle East, Alvaro Desoto, Ha'aretz, 8/13/06).

Nasrallah's statement (Al-Jazeera, 8/13/06) implies that Hizbullah's commitment to the ceasefire during the "interim period" will only prevent it from shooting into Israel proper, but will not exclude actions against IDF forces within Lebanon.

Why is this Important? Why Now?

Hizbullah aims at basic de-legitimization of Israel (see: Permanent Resistance) and objects any settlement with Israel that is based on finality of claims. Therefore, it is probable that in order to assure its future struggle against Israel, it will use the interim period to undermine prospects for a comprehensive agreement during the second phase.

Furthermore, Hizbullah will try to create a reality which will prevent the implementation of the clauses of Resolution 1701 which it considers to be "unfair" (see Al-Jazeera, 8/12/06). These clauses include expanding the mandate of UNIFIL, keeping Hizbullah away from the border and preventing the flow of munitions from Iran and Syria to Hizbullah.

Therefore, Hizbullah will probably use the interim period to re-establish its presence in south Lebanon, to fight the IDF and to restore its abilities.

Policy Options

UN Resolution 1701 does not settle most of the outstanding issues between Israel and Lebanon. Israel should consider entering direct negotiations with the Lebanese government in order to reach a political agreement that would deal with the challenge of Hizbullah.

Israel should attempt to synchronize its withdrawal with the deployment of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL, so that Hizbullah will not be able to use the time-gap to redeploy in south Lebanon.

In consideration of Hizbullah's expected actions against the IDF forces in Lebanon, Israel should consider the guidelines for its reactions – whether to limit its response to the area in which it is deployed, or to expand to other areas in Lebanon as well.
  • On the one hand, Israel will want to prevent Hizbullah from breaching the ceasefire;
  • On the other hand, a wide-range Israeli response may undermine the ceasefire.