Israel threatens to resume war if Hizbullah refuses to disarm
The IDF will have to resume operations in Lebanon if the expanded United Nations force being assembled does not fulfill its obligation to dismantle Hizbullah, an official in the Prime Minister's Office warned on Tuesday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly reached a deal allowing Hizbullah to keep its weapons but refrain from exhibiting them in public.
Israeli officials called the arrangement a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which passed over the weekend and was approved on Sunday by the cabinet.
"The resolution is clear that Hizbullah needs to be removed from the border area, embargoed and dismantled," the official said. "If the resolution is not implemented, we will have to take action to prevent the rearming of Hizbullah. I don't think backtracking will serve any useful purpose. There has to be pressure on Hizbullah to disarm or there will have to be another round."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to raise the issue when she meets in New York on Wednesday with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Annan angered Israeli officials when he told Channel 2 on Tuesday that "dismantling Hizbullah is not the direct mandate of the UN," which could only help Lebanon disarm the organization. Annan upset officials further when he said that deploying international forces in Lebanon would take "weeks or months," and not days as expected.
Israeli officials said the IDF would not complete its withdrawal from southern Lebanon until the international force was deployed - even if it took months - to prevent a vacuum in Lebanon that could endanger Israeli civilians. An official in the Prime Minister's Office accused Annan of having an anti-Israel agenda.
"He has been one-sided," the official said. "He tried to be even-handed in a situation that was clearly asymmetrical. When one side committed crimes against humanity and engaged in genocide and the other side defended itself, he cannot treat us in the same manner."
Annan rejected charges of bias, saying, "I have been very hard on Hizbullah and condemned Hizbullah for what it has done. I have condemned Israel for what I consider excessive use of force but it doesn't mean I am taking one side."
Livni will also meet with US diplomatic officials and Jewish leaders during her 24-hour visit. The goals of the trip include advancing Israel's interests in talks on implementing the cease-fire in Lebanon, expediting the deployment of an international force and bringing about the return of the kidnapped IDF soldiers.
Annan is set to make key decisions about the role of the multinational force. Livni had planned to visit New York over the weekend but her original trip was blocked by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovich said implementation of the cease-fire was "good so far" and "going according to plan." He said Livni wanted to make sure that UNIFIL's effectiveness would be maximized.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, the two main tasks of the expanded force would be enforcing a "Hizbullah-free zone" in south Lebanon and an international arms embargo on Hizbullah. He said the resolution detailed the placement of international forces at all crossing points into Lebanon, comprising those from Syria as well as airports and seaports.
"The resolution meets Israel's expectations," Regev said. "The focus now is on ensuring its full and complete implementation. Unfortunately, there have been too many UN resolutions on Lebanon that have gathered dust in the archives and have not changed anything. The challenge now is to bring about the expeditious implementation of 1701."