The Cease-fire / Siniora Insists on Simultaneity

The French-American draft Security Council resolution is stuck between the total rejection of Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Beri, and the "disappointment" of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Siniora insists that anything having to do with a cease-fire occur simultaneously on both sides, meaning that a cease-fire would also include an immediate Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, in parallel with the deployment of reinforcements for UNIFIL.

Siniora is opposed to the two-stage proposal in the draft resolution mainly because he is concerned that in the period between the first stage, "cessation of major hostilities," and the second phase, full cease-fire, the situation will deteriorate further.

The deterioration could involve possible clashes between the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah forces, in the absence of a capable multinational force that could separate the sides and prevent these incidents. This, Siniora fears, would delay Israel's pullout from southern Lebanon, which would translate into a delay in the return of 1 million refugees to the south. This, in turn, could damage the fragile balance between the religious communities in Lebanon, possibly sparking renewed civil strife.

Siniora would want to accept some of the articles of the draft resolution so as to avoid appearing as the one who rejected the resolution of peacemakers.

He would like to concentrate his efforts on passing two articles that could deny Hezbollah excuses to continue fighting. In addition to the principle of simultaneity, Siniora chooses to push the Shaba Farms issue, skipping over the problem of the prisoners, which could delay other matters, and demanding that the Shaba Farms be brought under international control as a first stage before transferring it to Lebanese control.

Siniora believes that removing the Shaba Farms thorn and arranging an immediate IDF withdrawal would take away from Hezbollah its justification for remaining an armed militia and would allow the deployment of Lebanese forces along the border.

Without these two changes to the draft resolution, Siniora will find it hard to convince Hezbollah that any Lebanese gains have been made.

Meanwhile, Siniora is fuming at the fact that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem came to Beirut yesterday, ahead of the Arab foreign ministers meeting scheduled for Monday. The Lebanese government is concerned that the Syrians will manage to turn the Arab ministers' meeting into the usual circus in which nothing is decided.