Israeli Foreign Minister Says Southern Lebanon Is ‘Explosive’

Daily News Article   —   Posted on August 24, 2006

(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) TEL AVIV, Israel - As the cease-fire between
Israel and Hezbollah looked increasingly fragile yesterday, Israel’s foreign
minister warned that the situation between the warring sides in southern Lebanon
was “explosive.”

“Time is working against
those who would like to see this resolution applied,” Tzipi Livni said after
meeting with her French counterpart in Paris. “We are now in the most sensitive
and explosive position.”

Yesterday, an Israeli
soldier died after entering a minefield and three Lebanese soldiers were killed
trying to defuse a cluster bomb, according to wire reports. And Israeli
officials have confirmed that, notwithstanding the cease-fire, the Israel
Defense Force considers senior Hezbollah commanders legitimate
targets.

Over the weekend, the
Israeli military bombed positions in the Bekaa Valley, saying it was preventing
the resupply of Hezbollah. Israel appears to be in a precarious position.
Although many of its soldiers are leaving southern Lebanon, Prime Minister
Olmert has pledged more operations to stem the tide of weapons to Hezbollah
until the 15,000-troop force called for in U.N. Security Council resolution 1701
fills the security vacuum.

That force has yet to
materialize, however. The French have reneged on promises to send substantial
numbers of troops to southern Lebanon. And while Italy has pledged up to 3,000
soldiers for the force, other donors include countries like Malaysia and
Indonesia, where the faith of choice for some is the same Islamism followed by
the Hezbollah fighters they are supposed to disarm.

Two other countries
weighing whether to send troops to Lebanon are Russia and Turkey, countries that
Israeli officials have said played a role in supplying Hezbollah. One Likud
member of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee, Yuval Steinitz,
said Tuesday that Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon could last for a few
months.

“Hezbollah will rebuild
and we will be under pressure to leave. It is not good to leave the IDF there
for too long. We will stay a few months, then we pull out without the agreement
and it will be a big mess. We did not use the opportunity to eliminate
Hezbollah’s military presence. We did not complete the job and we are going to
pay the price,” he said.

Pressure is already
mounting on Israel to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon. Prime minister
Siniora of Lebanon called on America yesterday to pressure Israel to “lift the
siege.”

Before his meeting with
Ms. Livni yesterday, the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, told
French Channel 2 television, “If Lebanon is going to be reconstructed, if
Lebanon is going to take off economically, the blockade must be
lifted.”

But as international
leaders pushed Israel to open Lebanon’s ports and airspace, Syria threatened
yesterday to shut down its border with Lebanon if an international force was
deployed there. After meeting his Syrian counterpart in Damascus, Finland’s
foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, said, “They indeed do not want this and they
announced they will close their borders if this takes place,” according to
Reuters.

The Syrian threat comes as
a surprise, as one of the chief Israeli grievances the U.N. cease-fire addresses
is Syria’s role in allowing arms to flow to Hezbollah from Iran. One of Israel’s
aims for the international force is to secure those borders to cut down on the
arms smuggling.

However, if Syria closes
the border entirely, then Lebanon will be entirely cut off from the Arabian
Peninsula, as it now has no diplomatic relations with Israel. One possibly
positive piece of news for Israel yesterday was Mr. Douste-Blazy’s hint that
France may consider sending more troops to southern Lebanon pending the outcome
of a meeting Friday of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels.

Reprinted here
with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at
NYSun.com.


Questions

1.  Look at the map of Israel/Lebanon from BBC News here.
a) Where is the Bekka Valley?  Be specific.
b) Why did Israel bomb positions in the Bekaa Valley?

2.  When will Israel end its operations aimed at preventing Hezbollah from acquiring more weapons?

3.  List the problems with the U.N. peacekeeping force as described in paragraphs 5 & 6.

4.  Resoultion
1701 was signed two weeks ago.  Should Israeli troops withdraw before
the U.N. peacekeepers are fully established?  Explain your answer.

5.  a) What has Syria threatened to do if U.N. peacekeepers move into Lebanon? 
b) Why does Israel want the U.N. peacekeepers on the Lebanese/Syrian border?

6.  France was
leading the cease-fire efforts for the U.N. After 1701 was signed, the
French government backed out of its promise to send a large number of
the peackeeping troops and pledged only 500.  What are your thoughts
about this?


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Background

  • Hezbollah is a
    terrorist group that is an umbrella organization of various radical
    Islamic Shi’ite groups and organizations which receives substantial
    financial and philosophical support from Iran.
  • Hezbollah’s stated objectives include the establishment of a Shiite theocracy in Lebanon,
    the destruction of Israel
    and the elimination of Western influences from the region.
    For background on Hezbollah, click here and here.
  • Last
    month, Hezbollah fighters raided an Israeli border post and kidnapped
    two soldiers.  This touched off a war between Israel and Hezbollah that
    lasted a month until the Israeli and Lebanese governments agreed to a
    cease-fire under a United Nations Security Council deal, resolution
    1701.  Resolution 1701 calls for the “full cessation of hostilities”
    between Hezbollah and Israel. It sketches a plan for the phased
    withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and calls for an
    expanded peacekeeping force there (of 15,000 U.N. troops).

Resources

For the text of U.N. Resolution 1701, click here.
For a more detailed article on the problems with 1701, click here.