Diplomatic Proposals / A Mine-filled Road Map

The diplomatic pressure on Israel, the first signs of which will become clear this week, is not detached from the feeling among Arab leaders - particularly Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - that they must lead the international diplomatic effort.

The upshot is that this weekend Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abd Al-Aziz and Lebanese MP Sa'ad Hariri, son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, drew up the outlines of a diplomatic agreement together with France's president and foreign minister, and today President George W. Bush can expect the Saudi foreign minister to tell him about the pressure and dissatisfaction in the Arab states regarding America's overly pro-Israeli position.

Two "road maps" are currently on the table. The American proposal calls for a significant draw-down of Hezbollah armories in southern Lebanon prior to a cease-fire offer conditioned on a Lebanese commitment to deploy its army. This would be followed by the creation of an international mechanism to enforce the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for disarming Hezbollah.

The Lebanese consider this proposal, which was coordinated with Israel, unrealistic. They want an immediate, unconditional cease-fire, followed by the implementation of Res. 1559 subject to negotiations among the Lebanese factions and Israel's willingness to withdraw from Shaba Farms. France currently supports this position.

There are no significant disagreements between the Lebanese leadership and Washington. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt agree there is no going back to a situation in which Hezbollah has a state within a state or its own army along the border with Israel. The difference is in the order in which the steps to this goal should be carried out.

Hezbollah rejects all proposals for an agreement or a cease-fire, and will allow the Lebanese government to broker only a prisoner exchange. Hassan Nasrallah seems to think he can continue to control the situation. Lebanese observers believe that by concentrating on this issue, Nasrallah gives himself a political escape hatch: at any moment he can offer a solution to a relatively easy problem and strip Israel of its legitimate reason for fighting in Lebanon without paying too dearly.