Terms of Surrender

After all that has taken place so far in Lebanon, nothing has succeeded in altering the basic equation: Any diplomatic solution will have to pass through the Lebanese political grinder and gain Hezbollah's agreement. "Everything is up in the air" according to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, including direct and indirect talks with Hezbollah, and therefore nothing has changed since before the outbreak of fighting

The question is not only what will stop Israel's onslaught but also what will the conditions be that will allow Hassan Nasrallah to nod approvingly. Mediators heard about what may work in a meeting with Nabih Berri, a "cont act person" to Hezbollah, the speaker of Lebanon's parliament and head of Amal, another Shi'ite group. According to Berri, even if the United Nations decides to deploy a "significant" force to south Lebanon, it will need Nasrallah's approval, otherwise such a force will be involved in incessant fighting and Israel will continue to suffer missile attacks.

If Hezbollah will be asked to lay down its arms, Nasrallah will have to approve this since there is not a single political power in Lebanon today that is capable of carrying out the group's disarmament. In fact, the idea of a disarmed Hezbollah is so far-fetched to senior Israel Defense Forces officers and Israeli politicians that they are willing to make do with a "significant weakening" of the group.

It turns out that even the mumbling of George Bush, in between bites, that Syria must be told to cut "that shit" out, is not exactly practical. Syria will be willing to negotiate if the boycott and threat on the nation is lifted, and the international investigation into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is called off and all plans to bring the accused before an international tribunal are scrapped. Some of these conditions, especially canceling the international tribunal, is the precondition with which Hezbollah confronted Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora in return for its cooperation in government and peace along the border with Israel.

Military pressure on Lebanon has not affected Lebanon's willingness to change its terms or see the issue of disarmament as anything but an internal Lebanese matter. Several days prior to the attack on Israel's border and the abduction of the two soldiers, Nasrallah agreed in principle that if his preconditions were met he would keep the border peaceful. As part of these understandings, Nasrallah also agreed in principle to allow the Shaba Farms to be liberated through diplomatic means.

Everything Nasrallah managed to gain in domestic talks will be very difficult to change, as he will charge that any foreign interference is coming from "Lebanon's enemies." As such, any deal with the Lebanese government can be interpreted as national betrayal, and Siniora, who must live with Hezbollah even after this war, will find it difficult to accept terms that will make him look like an American, or even worse, an Israeli puppet.

At the end of the day, Nasrallah aspires to his original aim: talks for a prisoner exchange without any changes to the political and military status quo in Lebanon.