New Update 31/07/06: Proposals
Bypassing the rhetoric on a ‘new Middle East’, ‘moments of opportunity’ or ‘calling of the 21st century’, the U.S.-U.K. position on the current crisis is gradually converging toward the more pragmatic, and comprehensive, French position. With the growing realization of the dead-end faced by an exclusive military approach to this conflict, the U.S.-U.K. have adopted the idea of an international security force to be sent to South Lebanon. Yet, voicing the Israeli position, an ambiguity remains regarding the issues of an immediate cease-fire, the status of the Shebaa Farms and the Hezbollah.
The more detailed French position has the added advantage of being ‘endorsed’ by the Lebanese government, of opening a space for the Hezbollah to negotiate and of giving a priority to the politial process over the military solution. This proposal includes an immediate cease-fire and negotiations regarding the prisoners followed by the establishment of a neutral zone, the deployment of an international force in South Lebanon, the extension of the control of the Lebanese army over its borders, the creation of a committee to oversee the cease-fire and the resolution of the issue of the Shebaa farms.
The Lebanese position follows broadly the French outline. The main points are an immediate cease-fire, a prisoners’ exchange, a UN mandate over Shebaa farms, the deployment of the Lebanese army over all of the territory and the extension of the UNIFIL mandate. After an initial reluctance by the Hezbollah regarding this proposal, preferring to restrict the negotiations to the issues of a cease-fire and exchange of prisoners, sources close to the Party saw no a priori objections to this plan, but expressed their concerns regarding the details of such a plan.