Thursday, July 20, 2006

Chibli Mallat - "A Lebanese initiative" (Bitterlemons-International)

This follows up a previous piece in Beirut's Daily Star by the Lebanese lawyer, political activist, and (probably quixotic) Presidential candidate Chibli Mallat which I discussed in Chibli Mallat vs. Rami Khouri on the Lebanese/Israeli crisis.
Mallat's new piece appears in Bitterlemons - International, a peace-oriented website that regularly carries paired discussions by Israeli and Arab writers. (The other website, "Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire", carries pieces by Israelis and Palestinians.) The July 20, 2006 roundtable on " Lebanon and Israel: the regional dimension" also includes an interview with Efraim Halevy (which is quite good) and a piece by Akram Baker (which is quite weak overall, and often inaccurate, but which does raise a few intriguing questions).
The main arguments from Mallat's piece are below. His package of proposals makes good sense--though whether or not it has any chance of being adopted and effectively implemented is another question.

--Jeff Weintraub

P.S. For a useful (and periodically updated) collection of "Resources for Lebanese & Gaza Crises" that includes this piece by Chibli Mallat, see this Zionism and Israel Information Center website.
==================== Middle East Roundtable
July 20, 2006 (Edition 27 Volume 4)

A Lebanese initiative

By Chibli Mallat

Chibli Mallat is EU Jean Monnet Professor at Saint Joseph's University in Beirut and a Lebanese presidential candidate.

In times of world crisis, Jean Monnet teaches us to think creatively. [....]
Where would we like to see Israel, Lebanon and Palestine at the end of the crisis? And how can we stop the bloodshed as quickly and as permanently as possible?

Amidst the flurry of proposals, two logics of peace are competing. One is Lebanese-Israeli, the other is regional. While my preference is for as comprehensive a settlement as possible, a full regional solution is more difficult to work out: the more parties to the solution, the more complicated and intertwined the interests. [....]
This is not the case in a narrower Lebanese-focused arrangement. It departs from the fact that Lebanon is the most aggrieved party--both by the unilateral action of Hizballah and by the massive retaliation by Israel. This means that the Lebanese government needs to act as the sole and exclusive legal agent in any solution on behalf of Lebanon. This is also why it is up to the Lebanese government to table a Security Council resolution that is principled and workable.

With my team in Beirut and New York, we proposed a draft Security Council resolution from the very first day of the crisis on July 12. Its preamble states the unacceptability of the action that triggered the crisis in terms of both international law (violation of the blue line) and domestic law (Hizballah, a non-state party, triggering war). It reaffirms relevant Security Council resolutions, especially the need for Lebanon as a whole to decide upon war and peace, another term for the state's monopoly over violence and the government's exclusive responsibility over borders.
The operative clauses of the draft resolution are three. First is the release of the two Israeli soldiers; second, negotiations between the Israeli government and the Lebanese government through the Security Council over all outstanding issues. The ceasefire should be operational at the beginning of this second phase. A third clause would keep spoilers at bay by the Security Council threatening to name leaders locally and regionally who might prevent the implementation of the two previous clauses. This should reduce the appetite for extremist posturing.
The second clause is the most important. It means that Lebanon is back in full control of its territory, and details can be hammered out later, in a non-violent and inevitably protracted process to sort the disagreements, and they are many, including over the Lebanese citizens still held in Israel.

Since that proposal was made, the G-8 issued the first important collective statement in St Petersburg over this crisis. Its operative clauses have a four-phased plan: release of the two Israeli soldiers, end of Hizballah military action, end of Israeli military action, release of the Palestinian MPs and ministers abducted by Israel. Since that statement several key actors, including the EU and the United Nations secretary general, have proposed the deployment of international troops on the Lebanese-Israeli border, under various forms. Lebanese statesman Ghassan Tueni has advocated the revival of a clause in UN Security Council Resolution 425 that gives deterrent power to UNIFIL, which has been stationed with little effect in South Lebanon since 1978. Others advocate NATO troops. Russia and the EU have expressed readiness to send troops. More ideas will be floated in a week of intense diplomacy. [...]

Until a lasting ceasefire is at hand, the Israeli government should resist three temptations: the reoccupation of any part of Lebanon, equating the Hizballah leadership with al-Qaeda and invoking a policy of assassinations that is by nature irreversible, and the punishment of the whole of Lebanon for an action that a small faction has brought upon a largely reluctant population and government. For my part, I have never taken comfort in the killing of Israelis.

I have no illusion about the difficulty of the diplomatic solution, but a Jean Monnet spirit needs to prevail: realistic, comprehensive, statesmanlike and pacifist.
- Published 20/7/2006 ©