Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Hanna Saleh

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Can Resolution 1701 Be Revived and Implemented?

Because nothing is more important than warding off the imminent threat to Lebanon, preventing its annihilation, and protecting the lives of its people, UN Resolution 1701, which created a bulwark protecting the country after the 2006 war, has been rediscovered. Is it still a lifeline that can save the Lebanese who fear a devastating war that goes beyond the mini-war on the border towns that have been razed to the ground? How can we approach this UN Resolution after it has been hollowed out? Can we go back to it and consequently implement its provisions?
The plan to evacuate East Rafah began on Monday. Israel decided to launch a ground assault on the city that had become home to two-thirds of Gaza's population ... and to violate the Camp David Agreement by crossing the Philadelphi Corridor and taking control of the Rafah crossing. Together, these actions ensured that the ceasefire proposal, which Netanyahu called a “defeat for Israel and a victory for Hamas and Iran” would not succeed. Since then, the countdown for Israel’s instigation of a major battle on the northern front has been accelerating. Tel Aviv is in control of this front. It has the initiative and will choose the timing and scope of the hostilities after its intelligence has deeply penetrated the country.
This war on Rafah is presented as an effort to root out Hamas and destroy its capabilities. In reality, it is an extension of the systematic campaign to destroy the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, broaden the genocide, and starve and displace the Gazans. It's part of a project to seize territory, impose a security belt to protect the settlements, isolate the north, and remove Palestinians. With regard to the day after, Israel is concerned with preventing another 'October 7' by removing Hamas from the Gaza Strip. Israel believes in the illusion of a security solution ensuring the safety of settlers returning to their settlements around Gaza.
With the ceasefire in Gaza thwarted and the assault on Rafah beginning, and after the failure of the French initiative for Lebanon, the risk of expansion has increased. Tel Aviv announced that northern settlements will be able to return to their homes before the start of the school year, signaling that the coming months will be heated. The message conveyed to Najib Mikati and Nabih Berri, Hezbollah’s mailbox, affirmed that our fate at the mercy of Hezbollah militia, which has turned the South into an arena for 'distracting' Israel, increases the likelihood of a severe military campaign on Lebanon. The proposals and initiatives called for a solution to be implemented in stages. First, Hezbollah would reposition 5 to 8 kilometers away from the Blue Line. Next, those who have been displaced on both sides of the border are allowed to return. In the final stage, the border disputes that have been pending since the year 2000 are to be resolved, with the army reinforcing its presence in the region and supported by UNIFIL. Essentially, the Lebanese were told that they should forget about the promise of security based on the illusion of “rules of engagement,” and that they must address the matter of Hezbollah’s weapons internally".
"Withdrawal” and “redeployment” are the keys to addressing the situation through UN Resolution 1701. These proposals are linked to what happened on October 8, 2023. Hezbollah opened a front in the South, walking back on its commitment to the first phase of the Resolution, the “cessation of hostilities.” Lebanon is far from the final stage: a “total ceasefire” and establishing sovereignty through the Armed forces and UNIFIL. This did not surprise the Israeli entity, which has persistently breached the agreement since it was signed. It did not surprise the United Nations Security Council either. Indeed, it has issued reports on Israel’s breaches, Hezbollah’s actions and the tunnels discovered years ago!
All parties colluded in the dangerous step of ignoring the non-implementation of the Resolution. It started on the day Beirut was occupied on May 7, 2008, which was followed by the heretical agreement reached in Doha: the “army, people, and resistance” equation being included in every ministerial statement since 2008! Afterward, Hezbollah saw this equation as legitimizing its arms. There were no serious objections on the basis of Article 8 of UN Resolution 1701, which calls for: the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets, and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL. More dangerously, perhaps, this coincided with Hezbollah's hijacking of the state, along with the systematic undermining of the legitimate military forces, which became incapable of implementing the Resolution:
1- Internal disturbances forced the Lebanese army to withdraw its forces from the South, reducing the number of army troops in the area from 15,000 to less than 5,000.
2- The army has been struggling for a while now, since the decision to end mandatory military service was taken. Volunteers have not filled the vacancies left by those who left, and not enough was done to address the issue. The country’s economic collapse reduced its military budget, leaving the army leadership in an unenviable position. It began with begging for meals and ended with limitations on covering the transportation of military personnel to their barracks, forcing the leadership to reduce the number of tasks it assigned!
3- Visitors to Lebanon, as well as the Rome Conference and the Elysee meeting, showed a willingness to support the army by covering the costs of recruitment, training, military, and logistical capabilities. However, reality drew red lines, preventing a shift that links the restoration of stability and security in the South to the army. It's a dead-end because Hezbollah makes the political decisions. Thus, the army has struggled to recruit soldiers, and the priority will remain to secure food and find ways to augment pay to prevent a collapse! Let us not kid ourselves, Hezbollah will take the steps needed to implement the UN Resolution. Indeed, ignited the southern front without consulting anyone, paying no mind to the rhetorical objections of the spoil-sharing regime.
Hezbollah is not bothered by the claim that it is implementing an Iranian agenda regardless of the consequences, or that it is taking us back to the days of Fatah Land. Indeed, it is ready to fight for the Vilayat-e-Faqih. It has done so for years in defense of the Syrian regime, and it considers the war in Yemen to be its most honorable! In fact, it sees the South as nothing more than another frontline in a geo-political struggle over the region. Contrary to what is said, Hezbollah is waiting for a deal it will exploit to reinforce its domestic control.
This catastrophic state of affairs demands that the “October revolutionaries” and everyone else who is serious about Lebanon’s independence develop a broader vision. They must develop a project for a settlement that restores trust and exposes the negligence and collusion of the state, liberating citizens from the impasse and reversing the course the country is now on. They must set Lebanon on course for the crystallization of an alternative project that begins with forming a 'historic bloc' that corrects the national imbalance and allows for the reconstitution of the Lebanese authorities!