The most obvious shortcomings of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 are: a) that there is no mechanism to enforce its demands – specifically that Hezbollah be disarmed, and; b) no mandate for the proposed UN force. It was no surprise, therefore, that: a) Hezbollah announced that it would not, in fact, disarm, and; b) although a number of countries indicated a willingness to consider joining the UN force, none has made a specific commitment. And, therefore, it is a surprise to find the French foreign minister jetting to Beirut for discussions with the Lebanese prime minister on the “Lebanese plan”? for Hezbollah’s disarmament.
According to The Financial Times, French officials said “Paris would resist leading a bolstered international force in southern Lebanon without Lebanese government assurances that Hezbollah “¦ would be disarmed,”? as Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy prepared for his trip, “a visit likely to prove pivotal in deciding the fate of the multinational UN force”¦ Aides to Mr. Douste-Blazy said he wanted to hear the Lebanese Army’s plan for removing Hezbollah’s missiles from a “˜buffer zone’ in south Lebanon. French officials “¦ say an international force could not be deployed until a demilitarized zone was created.”?
The story continues. “Diplomats in Paris are worried that Hezbollah, which has declared the ceasefire a “˜historic victory’ for the Arabs, has been emboldened and is now less likely to lay down its weapons. French officials said Mr. Douste-Blazy would not accept any Lebanese plan short of a full disarmament “¦ starting with the 20 km wide zone south of the Litani River. “˜We want an application of UN resolution 1701 in all its aspects,’ said a French diplomatic aide. “˜It is up to the Lebanese government to ensure the disarmament of Hezbollah,’ the aide said.”?
The Lebanese, on the other hand, are playing their traditional role. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has used the time to perfect his whine about “poor Lebanon”? and its inability to take on its obligations. The Lebanese defense minister said the Lebanese Army had “no intention”? of disarming Hezbollah. According to The Financial Times, Elias Murr “suggested Hezbollah understood that weapons could no longer be visible in the buffer zone, but said that if troops came across missiles they would not take them away.”?
But if we are no more pleased with the UN this week than last, we have to admit that we are pleased to see France put its prestige on the line on behalf of disarming Hezbollah – an act that would benefit Israel and help minimize the “victory”? claimed by Iran and Syria. And pleased that the German Foreign Minister canceled his trip to Syria after Assad’s rant. Bilateral diplomacy raises the stakes for France and Germany, and they didn’t have to do it. They could have pretended that the multilateral UN mush, for which no one is ultimately responsible, was sufficient diplomatic exertion. They could have pretended none of this has anything to do with them. They could have pretended it was Israel’s fault. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
But they didn’t. The rapid movement of European diplomats to secure the (very) slender benefits of UNSCR 1701 for Israel is welcome.