Saturday, August 12, 2006

A new number - 1701

Yesterday the UN Security Council passed its ceasefire resolution, Resolution 1701 (requires Adobe Reader), and Sunday the Israeli cabinet meets to endorse the ceasefire. It is unclear whether the formula adopted will prove to be another toothless resolution, like its predecessor 1559, or a true rearranging of the deck chairs in favor of stability. Relying on the Lebanese Army and an expanded UNIFIL force swollen with French troops does not sound particularly promising for the long haul. In the meantime (probably until Monday morning, 0700 local time), the IDF is making one last push to the Litani River, having tripled in the last 24 hours its ground forces (now somewhere between 30,000-45,000 troops) into southern Lebanon. And of course, the Katyushas keep falling. This confrontation will wind down, possibly not on a perfect timetable, but it will soon stop. Then the fallout of this damnable misadventure will reverberate for years in both Lebanon and Israel. Some (like Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit) are predicting that this confrontation, having revealed the Achilles heel of the daunting Israeli military, will embolden the Arab rejectionists to wage a greater war in some not so distant future. Others are predicting the beginning of a diplomatic push to settle the Israeli-Syrian problem of the Golan Heights.

The big winner? It would have to be one of the non-players, Bashar al-Assad, leader of Syria. Without sending a single soldier into the fray, he becomes the lynchpin for any true stability on the Lebanese border.

The big loser? That would have to be Ehud Olmert. What's happened to him is approximately equivalent to what has happened to George W. Bush. Two executive lightweights, propelled into positions of power, suddenly confronted a "surprising" terrorist threat. Each in their own way - and at very different paces - endorsed ad hoc and grandiose military solutions to the problems they faced, and both military campaigns proved a disaster. As a result, each has become unpopular with their respective electorates. The undoing of Dubya took 4 years in the US; the undoing of Udi (slang for Ehud) happened far faster.

Shavit, one of the more mercurial op-ed writers for Haaretz, wrote a front-page article in Friday's print edition calling for the resignation of Ehud Olmert. It's a mish-mash of right-wing and left-wing musings all brought together, and it indicates the frustration that many Israelis are experiencing with this operation and how it seems to be ending. Another writer I have enjoyed reading throughout has been the Israeli-Arab Sayed Kashua (we were supposed to meet him on our Tel Aviv University Workshop some weeks ago, but his session was cancelled) - his piece in the Friday paper is worth the read.

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