Friday, August 11, 2006

Diplomatic Maneuvers: Convergence or Divergence ?

The Associated Press reports that United States and France have agreed on draft resolution to halt the fighting in Lebanon, which is to be submitted to the UN Security Council later.

The United States has apparently done most of the agreeing. It is not clear exactly what the terms will be – the versions discussed on Fox News; the version discussed by the Associated Press in the linked article above; and, the version that Haaretz says the Lebanese cabinet signed off on all appear to have differences. For the moment, the Israeli ground offensive is continuing and even intensifying.

The UN proposals sound unsatisfactory from Israel's perspective. Still, Israelis should not be unduly surprised if the UN resolution is slanted against them. They have had over three weeks to make military headway against Hezbollah, but frittered away a good portion of it with air strikes and limited ground incursions, rather than the heavy ground offensive dictated by the situation. Quite frankly, the present state of military affairs does not entitle the Israelis to a better deal; even with American backing, it is simply not possible for a UN resolution, or any other diplomatic solution, to give the Israelis results which their military operations have not so far obtained.

The Olmert government has done itself no favors, with its now obvious dithering between different military options; either in terms of its relations with the US, or in the Israeli domestic political arena. Benjamin Netanyahu is waiting in the wings, and I suspect, politically, he is the Israeli winner of the past several weeks. The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lieut.-General Dan Halutz, the first Israeli Air Force officer to hold that post, and presumably the military advocate of the air-heavy option that dominated the first weeks of this conflict; which lost the Israelis so much political time, and got so much bad press, would probably do well to get his resume in order.

The intriguing part of this business is how far the Americans have gone towards the French view. The US, of course, wants to keep France on board for the Iranian nuclear issue. To some degree this is dictated by President Bush’s domestic weakness: many American opinion makers, persons of Leftist views: not to mention Democratic Party heavies -- trust and agree the French government's foreign policy more than that of their own, and this constrains the President’s freedom of maneuver. I would prophecy that expectations of much from France are completely misplaced, but that is a story for another day.

What will the Israelis do ? What will the Americans do if the Israelis object to the impending UN resolution ? Probably, everybody will go ahead with what they are doing. Israeli military operations will continue for a little while longer, but Washington will fall over backwards to find that the Israelis are complying with whatever the UN passes.

Certainly, it is unlikely that the US government will ever find the Israelis are not complying with the UN, because then it would be under pressure to do something, which is a domestic political cul-de-sac no administration will get caught dead in. The Americans will say that the Israelis and US see “eye-to-eye” on whatever the resolution says; and that the Israeli cabinet has “assured” the “administration” – no names here – that Israel “means to comply with the spirit and the letter of UN Resolution XXXX” but that certain “modalities of implementation” remain to be worked out; but both Israel and the United States are dedicated to building a “just and durable” peace in “Lebanon, and all through the Middle East.”

As usual, all the assurances of “just and lasting” peace are the giveaway that the gravediggers and armaments manufacturers will continue to enjoy prosperity.

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