Condoleezza Rice optimistically refers to the cease fire before the U.N. as a crucial first step. Crucial, perhaps, but even she acknowledges that the fighting won't end soon. The resolution is more like an agreement to reflect on considering a proposal to discuss the opening of deliberations for a potential conference on the character a cease fire would have.
YNet reports that Russia has backed the resolution, and that it is expected to pass on Tuesday.
After initially supporting the resolution, Lebanon has proposed a change that promises 15,000 Lebanese troops to the area, along with 2,000 UN troops, immediately upon an Israeli withdrawal:
Their arrival would be nearly simultaneous with a ceasefire and a withdrawal of all Israeli forces and would guarantee that no Hezbollah fighters would be allowed south of the Litani River, he was quoted as saying.
Mr. Saniora said he discussed his ideas with Ms. Rice, Mr. Blair and the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon but has not received a response, the paper reported.
I had predicted that Hezbollah would prove itself incapable of living up to any cease fire agreement. At this point I would have to say they appear to be incapable of even negotiating a cease fire. They are not interested in ending the fighting, only in humiliating Israel:
Lebanon's parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, who represents the Shiite militant group in negotiations, also said the draft was unacceptable because it did not deal with two other key demands -- a release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel and moves to resolve a dispute over the disputed Shebaa Farms area, which it seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
An abandoned scrap of land in dispute from a forty-year-old war: a party that obsesses over such things is not a serious negotiating partner. For its part, Israel has said that it would gladly return the Shebaa Farms in any other context but one in which it appears the return is a response to Hezbollah's immediate demands.
Israel has better a reason to reject the cease fire, yet because they are seriously interested in peace, they have not let that reason interfere with diplomatic efforts to end the war:
On prisoners, the draft does not explicitly call for the release of two Israeli soldiers whose abduction sparked the fighting, though it emphasizes the need for their unconditional freedom, and it encourages efforts to settle the sensitive issue of Lebanese prisoners in Israel.
The U.S., perhaps sensing that unless some agreement is passed soon then no agreement will be passed at all, is trying to rush the resolution through.
As the fighting continues in the south, a mystery surrounds the Baalbek hospital raided by commandos:
Hezbollah militants continue to maintain a tight guard around a hospital they say is empty, days after Israeli commandos stormed it in a dramatic midnight raid into the heart of the militia's territory.
The anxious attitude of two men standing guard in the parking lot when a reporter and photographer visited over the weekend simply added to the mystery surrounding Hezbollah's uses of the building and Israel's purpose in raiding it.
"You must not stay here," said the younger one, who called himself only Ali. "You cannot go inside. You must go."
Equally mysterious was the account of Dr. Akram Rifai, the director of health for Baalbek, who told The Washington Times over the weekend that the hospital was empty when the Israelis attacked, apart from four armed male nurses who "resisted the Israeli solders."
When pressed, however, he was unable to explain what medical personnel with weapons were doing inside an empty hospital.
Residents could not say why the Hezbollah-administered hospital nearly 60 miles from the Israeli border would attract such an attack.
For the tragedy of what Hezbollah have brought to the Shia, see this post from Michael Totten.
Rhymes With Right reproduces a column from 1968 that reminds us of the unreasonably high standard to which Israel has always been held. Those who forget history are condemned to listen to the same BS over and over again.
UPDATE 1:16 pm CDT: Israel has, like Lebanon, requested changes to the cease fire resolution, the most significant of which are language that makes Lebanon explicitly responsible for preventing Hezbollah's resupply, and the removal of any restriction of Israeli military operations. The language about "offensive" military action always bothered me, because it indulged the assumption that Israel had designs on Lebanese territory. It's a little preposterous, unless Hassan Nasrallah were somehow involved in a conspiracy with Israel to start a war for the benefit of Zionist imperialism.
The Arab League will present the Lebanese requests mentioned earlier. To give them an opportunity to comment on the resolution, the vote has been pushed back from Tuesday.
In the absence of a diplomatic agreement, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz has ordered the military to hasten its operations against Hezbollah rocket sites.
UPDATE 5:29 pm CDT: For the record, here's the transcript of the Bush/Rice press conference today. Here's the first question:
"Q The Lebanese Prime Minister is demanding a quick and decisive cease-fire. An Israeli air raid today killed 40 people. When will we see this resolution? And if it's approved, when will we see a cessation of violence?"
The reporter is referring to an air strike in the southern Lebanese village of Houla, and of course that proved to be a false report. Only one person was killed in that strike, though later reports indicated strikes in Beirut killed at least 10.
The President said this about the general challenge of groups like Hezbollah:
It is the great challenge of this century and it's this: As young democracies flourish, terrorists try to stop their progress. And it's the great challenge of the United States and others who are blessed with living in free countries. Not only do terrorists try to stop the advance of democracy through killing innocent people within those countries, they also try to shape the will of the western world by killing innocent westerners. They try to spread their jihadist message -- a message I call, it's totalitarian in nature -- Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.
I think that pretty much sums it up.
The Times Online has scorecard of the diplomatic disputes.
The Arab League is representing Lebanon in the debates over the cease fire resolution, and I think that adds an interesting element to the situation. Though hardly moderate, the Arab League is also not Persian, and I wonder if they are as interested in suppressing Hezbollah as they are putting an end to Israeli bombings and air raids.
In any event, and despite the presence of Hezbollah within the government, the Lebanese cabinet has agreed to send 15,000 troops to south Lebanon. They have already begun to mobilize their reserves.
More ominously, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards told his soldiers to...
"...prepare themselves to get even with Zionists and Americans."
"We have to keep this sacred hatred of the enemies of Islam alive in our hearts until the time of revenge comes," the general was quoted as saying.
"I hope our nation can one day avenge the blood of innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, adding: "I ask God to arouse the dignity of Muslims and destroy America, Israel and their associates.
"I hope the clerical leaders in the Islamic world clarify the duty of Muslims against Israel," he also said.
UPDATE 6:15 pm CDT: France has sided with Lebanon and has asked the U.S. to delay discussions. The French intend to insert language requiring an immediate Israeli withdrawal and which is more precise on the subject of Shebaa Farms.