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More on the Israeli Peace Initiative: Trusting the UN and Ignoring Hezbollah

Posted on April 12 2011 11:06 am
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel
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In my last post, I took Gershom Gorenberg to task for selling a peace plan that is old wine in a new bottle—a plan that promised peace as long as Prime Minister Netanyahu was “replaced” with someone who would follow orders from the Saudi royal family.

I noted how dangerous this mindset is, and how contemptuous of Israeli democracy you must be to push it. But I don’t think I really showed just how ridiculous and vacuous the plan itself is—a topic that really does warrant an explanation. Here, in their entirety, are the Israeli Peace Initiative’s sections on Syria and Lebanon:

1b) Israeli-Syrian Conflict Resolution Parameters

1. Borders — Israel shall withdraw from the Golan to a border-line to be designed based on the June 4, 1967 status, with agreed minor modifications and land swaps based on a 1:1 ratio, reflecting the 1923 international border. The agreement shall be mutually implemented in stages, based on the Sinai model, over a period not to exceed 5 years.

2. Security Arrangements –A comprehensive security package shall be mutually agreed, defining, inter alia, the scope of demilitarized zones on both sides of the border and the deployment of peace keeping international forces.

1c) Israeli-Lebanese Conflict Resolution Parameters

1. Borders — Israel and Lebanon shall establish permanent peace based on UNSCR 1701, subject to which Israel concluded its withdrawal to the international border.

2. Lebanese Sovereignty — In addition to the full implementation of UNSCR 1701, Lebanon shall exercise full sovereignty over its territory through the Lebanese army.

On the issue of the Golan Heights—territory legally annexed and now part of Israel—the Jews are to withdraw from the entire territory, then withdraw further to create a DMZ. As another safeguard, there will be international peacekeeping forces on the Golan. International forces is code for United Nations forces, much like the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the UN, in 2008, laid out exactly how UNIFIL was fulfilling its responsibilities—not at all. Here’s what Dan Gillerman told the Jerusalem Post:

“The UNIFIL soldiers were not sent there to give out chocolates to children or write traffic tickets. They were sent there to carry out a mandate which was very clearly defined, and they are not [doing so]. By not doing it, they may be laying the groundwork for the next flare-up. So even in their own interest and for their safety, they should be more proactive and go after Hizbullah, and find a way to control the Israeli-Syrian border.”

Gillerman said he had brought up his “very grave concerns” about the situation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He said the Israeli government had made a concerted effort to persuade the UN leadership to take a more assertive approach to the UNIFIL troops’ nonimplementation of Resolution 1701.

“We have brought in experts, brought in generals, briefed them on the situation – they know exactly what is happening. We are not even asking them to change the mandate or the rules of operation, because that would mean opening the whole thing today, and God knows where you will end up. But within the mandate as it stands today, they can do much more and be more effective, and if they don’t, they will have to regret it,” he said. “Resolution 1701 was perceived as a major diplomatic achievement for Israel, because in previous wars, while we did have resounding and outright victories on ground, they were never followed by political or diplomatic achievements. Here, while we may not have had a resounding victory on the ground, we did have a very significant diplomatic achievement, which not only put an end to the war, but also had elements of dramatically changing the situation on the ground.”

That is quite the indictment of UNIFIL. But UNIFIL was actually worse than that. It’s true that UNIFIL didn’t fulfill its mandate (and still isn’t), but what they did during the Second Lebanon War was more harmful than just standing on the sidelines. UNIFIL was publishing sensitive information about Israeli troop movements on its website where Hezbollah could read it. I questioned Milos Strugar, who was UNIFIL’s commander on the ground in Lebanon at the time, about it. Here is what I wrote after that exchange:

Strugar added that a comparison of the UNIFIL and IDF press releases would show that Israel was even more forthcoming with information on its own military than UNIFIL.

The reality gleaned from such a review is that only rarely was the IDF as or more specific with its press releases than UNIFIL.

For example, on July 18, UNIFIL published the following: “Two IDF Ground incursions inside Lebanese territory were reported yesterday. Three PUMA armored vehicles entered approximately one kilometer inside Lebanese territory in the area of Ras Naqoura on the Mediterranean coast yesterday afternoon, and withdrew to the Israeli side after a while. IDF forces also operated on the Lebanese side of the divided village of Ghajar.”

The IDF press release from that same day was also quite specific: “Around 50 aerial attacks took place during the night. Among the targets attacked from the air: structures and bunkers belonging to Hizbullah headquarters in the Dahia neighborhood in Beirut; weapons depot in Ba’al Beck and Bint Jebal; trucks used to transfer weaponry and launch rockets, in Ba’al Beck and Um-a-Tahta; bridges and access routes in southern Lebanon; rocket launching areas from which Hizbullah launched rockets at Israel.”

The press release also discusses operations in the village of Rajar.

That is where the similarities end, however. It wasn’t until July 24 that the IDF again released detailed information on troop movements and locations. In contrast, UNIFIL the very next day, July 19, published the following: “In the early morning, six tanks, one bulldozer, and two graders moved into the area south of the village of Alma Ash Shab, close to the Mediterranean coast, and withdrew to the Israeli side after a couple of hours. Half an hour ago, around noon local time, three tanks entered the area southeast of Bint Jubayl in the central sector.”

Such was the pattern. On July 20, UNIFIL posted the type of shells the IDF was firing, the villages Israeli soldiers entered, and how long they stayed.

On July 22, UNIFIL published the locations of Israeli troops, where they had left and where they had remained, and even the fact that there were limited Israeli reinforcements in one of those locations — and named the village.

An almost identical report appeared on the UNIFIL Web site on July 23. On July 24 and 25, UNIFIL reported where and when the IDF brought in reinforcements, and what type of vehicles were used.

UNIFIL’s July 18 press release said the following about Hezbollah: “Rockets were fired from the Lebanese territory”; on July 19: “Hezbollah continued to fire rockets from various locations in the south”; and on July 22: “A smaller number of Hezbollah rockets were fired from various locations.”

The Israeli Peace Initiative, however, relies on just these troops to keep the peace with Syria and Lebanon, and also expects the Lebanese army to “exercise full sovereignty over its territory”—in other words, defeat Hezbollah.

There is no diplomatic way to say how certifiably insane this is. And strong language must be used, because the danger of a plan like this cannot be understated.

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