The Public - and Secret - Orders of Fouad Siniora

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The Lebanese Army, which is supposed to start taking up positions in southern Lebanon today, has received clear public directives from its government - to defend the state, to prevent the presence there of an authority other than that of the government, and to help the refugees return home and secure their property. In practice, it has been ordered not to confront Hezbollah and not to collect arms - neither from individuals nor from storage sites.

The directives came following negotiations conducted by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri with Hassan Nasrallah: The three agreed that the issue of Hezbollah's disarmament would be debated at a later, undetermined date during confidential discussions between the government factions.

The sides in Lebanon are thus upholding only a small portion of Sinora's seven-point plan, and even a smaller portion of UN Security Council Resolution 1701: Siniora's commitment to a single army will have to wait; and Hezbollah's dismantling will take place, if ever, voluntarily and not by force.

At this stage, Hezbollah is prepared to promise that southern Lebanon will be free of military activity, but not devoid of its arms.

The agreement between the sides came in the wake of a Beirut meeting with the foreign ministers of Turkey, France, Pakistan and Malaysia, which are supposed to send reinforcements to bolster the UNIFIL forces in the area and have been promised that every effort will be made to ensure that their soldiers will not have to confront armed Hezbollah forces.

However, it is clear to all sides that three armies - the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and the old UNIFIL force - will be operating in southern Lebanon as of this weekend, before the international forces arrive.

What remains unclear is the agreement Hezbollah and the Lebanese government reached regarding a military response in the event of an Israeli breach of the cease-fire after the deployment of UNIFIL and the Lebanese forces.

Will Hezbollah continue to be a deterrent force that can respond spontaneously, or will it have to wait for approval from the Lebanese government? And what would be considered a breach of the cease-fire?

At this stage, and in this regard, Hezbollah will continue to call the shots - for the Lebanese government too. As such, the pre-war situation remains in place: Despite its mandate to defend the country, the Lebanese Army will still not be able to respond to an Israeli breach of the cease-fire agreement.

The Shaba Farms area is also an issue that has not yet been resolved. Syria, to whom the area officially belongs, said Tuesday it would not object to the deployment in Shaba of UNIFIL soldiers, but would not allow the Lebanese Army to patrol or set up positions there.

For the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, the area is still occupied territory that has to be liberated. The Lebanese government is ready for a diplomatic struggle, while Hezbollah reserves the right to liberate the area by force.

Syria has declared, however, that it will discuss the issue with Lebanon only after the liberation of the entire Golan Heights. In this regard too, therefore, as long as Israel does not propose a unilateral withdrawal from the Shaba Farms area, the war has changed nothing.