Despite predictable rhetoric, the UN-brokered ceasefire that has ended (for now) the fighting and rocket attacks in Lebanon and Israel is neither a glorious victory nor a crushing defeat for either side.
It does, however, leave Israel in a stronger and safer position on its northern border for the time being. And, at least pontentially, it makes Hezbollah militarily irrelevant.
Israel’s flat-footed and often clumsy military response to Hezbollah’s attack on its territory has been justly criticized (and let’s hope the country’s leaders relearned a few lessons about the importance of preparation, surprise, special operations, etc.). Probably a better-prepared and more precise response would have prevented some of the heartbreaking casualties we saw in Lebanon. But regardless of how Israel fought, there would have been civilian casualties– because of how Hezbollah fights and because of the nature of war. And I suspect that no matter how Israel fought, the outrage from its enemies would have been about the same. Their problem wasn’t how Israel fought, but rather that it fought at all.
Nevertheless Israel’s response forced the UN and the Lebanese government to commit themselves to keeping Hezbollah from operating against Israel.
The UN resoution on the ceasefire:
Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:
— full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;
— security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL… deployed in this area;
— full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
— no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
— no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;
— provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel’s possession
The ceasefire, in other words commits Lebanon and the UN to disarming Hezbollah in south Lebanon and to eliminating Hezbollah as an independent militia throughout the country.
Again, none of this would have happened if Israel, in response to Hezbollah’s incursion, had simply launched a few pro-forma strikes as it has in the past.
While Hezbollah did manage to cause a lot of suffering in Israel, and to provide some cheer for the Zionist-haters of the world, it’s hard to see what Hezbollah has gained from its foolish incursion– for itself, for its Iranian paymasters or especially for the people of Lebanon. Israel is not substantially weaker as a result of the war. Once the postwar reality sets in, I think a lot of Lebanese will start to put most of the blame where it belongs.
To what extent the ceasefire will be observed and enforced is the main question now. Israel is under no obligation to tolerate blatant violations. Hezbollah’s acceptance of an arragement that in effect calls for its demise is a source of some mystery to me. Perhaps the war was hurting them more than they let on.
Finally, and not least, Hassan Nasrallah will have to live like a hunted animal for the rest of what I hope will be a short and not-very-sweet life.