Changing the situation in Lebanon does not depend only on a military campaign, it does not depend only on Israel. It depends mainly on what happens the day after the military campaign, on what the Lebanese government does, on what its Prime Minister does, on what the international community does.
Madam Speaker of the Knesset,
Members of the Knesset,
Cabinet Ministers of Israel,
Families of the kidnapped soldiers,
Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped as a distraction. The offensive came from Lebanon and was perpetrated by Hizbullah, a terrorist organization with its own army, which is also a member of Lebanon’s coalition government. Hizbullah is also the long arm of Iran and its objectives do not involve only Israel or Lebanon – Nasrallah wants to impose his evil ideology on the entire region and also to dictate to us not only what will be between Israel and Lebanon but also between Israel and the Palestinians. The kidnapping was timed for several days before the G8 summit meeting involving the countries that were supposed promote a resolution preventing Iran from advancing its nuclear programs. The kidnapping was perpetrated several days after it seemed, from the voices coming out of Syria, that something might be happening to free Gilad Shalit, the soldier who had been kidnapped earlier. Then Nasrallah came out of hiding, ran to Damascus and called: don’t surrender, we want to dictate how and where we will lead the dispute.
In a normal world, a country is responsible for what happens within its territory and this offensive came out of Lebanon into Israeli territory. Two ostensibly sovereign states. In a normal country, the government imposes its sovereignty over all its territory, in a normal country and in a normal world there is one army and one government, which is not the situation in Lebanon – and the Middle East is apparently not such a world.
That night, Israel was obliged to respond and that night, the proper and justified decision was made not to show restraint any longer – because that night, it was necessary to send a clear and unequivocal message to Nasrallah and to Hizbullah, and from there to Syria and to Iran and to Hamas and to anyone who wishes the annihilation of the State of Israel, that there is no such thing as a balance of terror, because we are no longer afraid. That day, Israel decided to go on the offensive and to use its forces to strike out and proclaim that the rules of the game have changed. That night the rules of the game changed, because it appears that in Nasrallah’s worst nightmares, he never dreamed of such a response from Israel.
From that day we have been committed to act in a way that, out of that offensive, out of that military campaign, out of the noise of the artillery and the opposing missiles, we must act to ensure a better future for the long term. And changing the situation in Lebanon does not depend only on a military campaign, it does not depend only on Israel. It depends mainly on what happens the day after the military campaign, on what the Lebanese government does, on what its Prime Minister does, on what the international community does. And the role of the political echelon is not just to buy time for the army to implement the military operations, but also to ensure that at the end of the military operations it will be possible to implement processes that will create a better long-term situation here. That is what we have done with the international community, almost from the start of the campaign
There are two sides in this war, and it would appear to involve Israel on the one hand and Lebanon on the other, but that is not the case – and it certainly was not the case at the start of the IDF operations. The two sides involved in the dispute are Israel, along with the Lebanese government, and the international community on one side, and Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria and Iran on the other side. There is great clarity in the international community regarding the threat.
It is clear to everyone that this is not just a random attack by a terrorist organization against Israel. This is a threat to the entire western world, and when we reached this stage, the framework of international understandings was clear. UN Resolution 425 determined the line that the State of Israel must reach, and the confirmation of the United Nations that the line we reached was the line to which we were supposed to retreat, was the recognized line that Lebanon must also honor. Resolution 1559 determined that foreign forces must be withdrawn from Lebanon, like the resolution that expressly determined that the militias that were not the Lebanese army must be disarmed, in order to enable the Lebanese government to spread its sovereignty over all its territory. And afterwards came Resolution 1680, which was a follow-up resolution that was passed only a few months ago, with the intention of ascertaining what was being done to implement Resolution 1559. This resolution also required Lebanon to continue to disarm the militias and that a border must be drawn or an effort made to draw a border, between Lebanon and Syria.
These were the objectives imposed on Lebanon by the international community, with no connection to the State of Israel or the dispute between Israel and Lebanon, and that same day, we requested that another essential objective be added which was not contingent upon anything the return of the kidnapped soldiers. We requested the unconditional return of the kidnapped soldiers to Israel with the understanding that the international community cannot accept a situation in which some entity operates within the territory of a country, kidnapping its citizens, its soldiers. That it caused no outcry because it must be understood that other countries in the free world encounter such phenomena, even if their forces are in different places. So we asked them to send this message clearly, unequivocally and unconditionally since this matter does not touch only the families of the kidnapped victims in Israel, not just Israeli society, or the Israeli government. It also pertains to the message that will be sent by the free world in its war against global terrorism and against the methods utilized by global terrorism.
Israel initiated these political processes almost from the start of the fighting, with the aim of determining the processes for the day after. It must be understood that when there are UN resolutions that determine or state or call for disarming the militias in Lebanon, the process that occurred in Lebanon was not that of disarming the militias but that of embracing the militias. An internal Lebanese dialog began between the Lebanese government and Hizbullah on the question of how to advance this process pleasantly, with various political methods, and the result blew up in our faces and in actuality – and the international community also knows this – Israel is paying the price for the weakness of the Lebanese government, a price that is also being paid by the Lebanese people.
We thought that it was not enough to suffice with words that spoke of realizing Lebanese sovereignty throughout all the territory of Lebanon and that decisions had to be initiated that would translate those words into action, that would break the words down into details, that would turn them into actions which determine not just what should be at the end of the day, but rather how it should be implemented. And in this process, we worked together with pivotal players in the international community, among them the US. We wanted to translate it into action.
In other words, if we talk about the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and deploying its army, the first thing that needs to be done is to deploy the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon, as stated in Resolution 1559. That is the place where, over the past few years, the controlling entity, the controlling army, has actually been Hizbullah. Since the Lebanese government has claimed until now – actually, until yesterday – that it does not have the power to carry out this mission, that it does not have the ability to make decisions that are contrary to the interests of Hizbullah, its coalition partner, we tried to advance, together with the international community – and because of its willingness to send international forces – a process that would strengthen the Lebanese army from the outside. The idea was to add international forces to the Lebanese army so that it would be possible, on the one hand, to strengthen the Lebanese army on its way south and, on the other hand, in such a situation, the assumption was that Hizbullah would not attack the Lebanese army due to its own internal Lebanese interests.
The international community understood that in such a case, the mobilization of a special force would be required which, under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter would be able to implement its authority and utilize force, and not just write reports when they noticed that something that was occurring was against the rules. Concomitantly, we wanted – and we proposed – to create a process that would prevent the rearming of Hizbullah. If ultimately, after the military campaign, Hizbullah was found to be refueled and resupplied by Iran, whether with money or materiel, with missiles and weapons, in convoys that routinely passed undisturbed through Iran, Syria, across the Lebanese border and inward into Lebanon, we wanted to forge a resolution that would place an arms embargo on countries and organizations that send weapons to Hizbullah or to any militia that was not the Lebanese army, and also to reinforce the Lebanese forces on the Syrian – Lebanese border, to enable genuine supervision of the passage of forces and arms over these routes.
The deployment of international forces in this context and reinforcement of the Lebanese army also requires the consent of the Lebanese government. It appears that about ten days ago, the process we promoted could have been advanced with some form of consent by the Lebanese government, the intention being to bring one resolution to the Security Council following which the international force would be mobilized and would join the Lebanese army and it would then have been possible to translate the general concept into action, one-on-one, in the field. As everyone remembers, that is also the day on which the American Secretary of State was here, but on her way from the meetings in Israel to the airport to fly to Lebanon, the attack on Kafr Qana took place which also caused the Lebanese government to withdraw from its statement and caused some of the members of the international community to express shock at the pictures and to demand an immediate ceasefire.
As a result, the proposal on the table ,which began with an independent French proposal, was to translate this concept into two stages. The first stage would be to determine the rules of the process on a more declarative level, there would be some sort of dialogue to determine the conditions of implementation and afterwards there would be another resolution on the implementation of the forces. At that stage, American-French deliberations, among others, were held, with Israel requesting, in this framework, to make the amendments that were important to it, so that what began as a French product, requiring an immediate ceasefire in the first resolution which only afterwards would be translated into practical action, would become a more practical resolution, in order to shorten the time as much as possible between the two resolutions.
Ultimately, after long, intensive deliberations, mainly between Israel and the US, the US and France, the US and Lebanon, and Lebanon and France, a joint text was composed which expresses those agreements and was submitted to the UN Security Council.
The first stage of the resolution that was submitted determines the process and is still based on the principle of two resolutions. I cannot state here, today, from the podium, the Israeli government’s position on the resolution for the simple and clear reason that we are also still conducting deliberations and are requesting to make certain amendments that are important to us and, in the nature of things in matters of this type, public statements can harm the process rather than helping it. In principle, however, in order to share the substance of the resolution with members of the Knesset, the importance at the declarative level was first and foremost a determination and do not belittle that. In other words, to achieve every word that appears required a great deal of deliberation and talks and requests and debates, and not all of the process was pleasant. Sometimes parts of the deliberations were also very difficult, but first we wanted to determine that the beginning of this situation, the beginning of this process, was Hizbullah’s attack on Israel, so that Hizbullah would be mentioned by name.
Secondly, we insisted that there be no comparison, not even implied, nor in a different form, nor even in the same paragraph, between the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the prisoners sitting in Israeli prisons after being legally tried by Israeli courts, with a description of their actions given by the Speaker of the Knesset, and even that had to be told to some of the representatives of the international community who thought that there was some kind of reasonable comparison here. Here there are kidnapped victims and there there are prisoners sitting and, among other things, we had to make the distinction, so in the resolution the kidnapped soldiers are referred to in the understanding as part of the reason for the event, with a demand for the unconditional release of the kidnapped soldiers. The prisoners are mentioned in the resolution not at some level of comparison, nor in the same paragraph with a reference that I would not like to have seen from the start, but after all those deliberations and in view of our starting point. The mention of them cannot be compared to the unequivocal demand regarding the kidnapped soldiers, and still I said no, I think that prisoners incarcerated in Israel should not be mentioned in the resolution.
At the same time, there was some discussion of the demand made by the French and supported by some other countries, particularly in Europe, for an immediate ceasefire to be followed by this discussion. An immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of IDF forces, and then a discussion about the future of Lebanon. Our position was that this kind of situation or this kind of resolution would lead to a vacuum, to a situation in which, after a ceasefire was achieved, Resolution 1559 would not actually be implemented, the Lebanese army, perhaps joined by international forces, would not come down to South Lebanon, and weapons would be brought in unless an embargo was imposed.
There were therefore very tough arguments about this section too, until an understanding was reached – which is contained in the current draft – that Hizbullah must cease its attacks. Just to clarify matters for some members of Knesset, after we embarked on an immediate ceasefire they wanted to create a situation in which Hizbullah would stop only the rocket attacks on Israel, while our soldiers would continue to be subject to attack, as in similar agreements that existed in the past. This was unacceptable to us and here, too, the resolution was changed so that Hizbullah is required to stop all its attacks, of all kinds and against all targets, including our soldiers, and not only within the boundaries of the State of Israel. At the same time, if this occurs, Israel is required not to take any active measures, but there is no requirement that we withdraw forces, and naturally we retain the right of response.
I will briefly mention other aspects at the declarative level, mainly because in the nature of things, while I am here, discussions are continuing outside Israel, in the United Nations, in Washington, in Paris, in Jerusalem, by those who want to change the resolution. But just to outline the resolution, the process is one which first states the reason for the latest round of violence and calls for the release – there is no call for an immediate ceasefire in the sense that they wanted in the first place. It has been decided that the next resolution to be implemented following the discussions will include an embargo on arms that do not come through the Lebanese government. This idea that was brought up in Israel and adopted by the international community. In addition, a multinational force is supposed to join the Lebanese government and, of course, implementation of resolution 1559 and demilitarization – not a general demilitarization, but of course demilitarization of whatever is not the Lebanese army in the area south of the Litani.
So this resolution also mentions the need for a solution with regard to drawing the border of Lebanon, including the Shaba farm. Since this proposal was put on the table, the Lebanese government has announced, both directly and in public, and also to those who are apparently supposed to represent its interests in this process in the Security Council, that it does not accept this resolution and demands the introduction of amendments that will enable it to present achievements that will strengthen the Lebanese government. What we see here from the Lebanese government is that Siniora, in fact, is using his weakness in order to call on the international community to strengthen him. The situation in which we find ourselves is that even though it is understood that the attack on Israel emanated from Lebanon, the current Lebanese government is the result of a process encouraged by the international community in order to create new processes in Lebanon, and therefore the international community sees it as being in its interest to strengthen the Siniora government.
What we have to say to the international community is this: First of all, the time has come for the international community not to leave resolutions merely on paper, as resolutions that are voted on one day and then left in the archives and only brought out in the event of a catastrophe. With regard to resolutions taken by the international community, Resolution 1559 and Resolution 1680, the international community must demand their implementation. We say to the international community, to those on the outside, that the people watching this process are not only Israel and Lebanon, not only the Israeli government and the Lebanese government. Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran, and Syria are also watching the international community, to see whether it merely speaks in terms of values or whether it also requires and demands implementation of its own resolutions.
With regard to the theory about strengthening weak leaders, unfortunately in the Middle East, and in particular with regard to Israel’s unresolved disputes, experience shows us that we are faced with leaders who have good intentions, in part, and many of them, but no power to implement them or carry them out. It is important in these cases that they should understand that what they are asking for cannot be payment in order to strengthen them, but ultimately payment as a result of their own actions and if it is necessary to strengthen them, this strength must also be drawn from the place where they are, and today we are talking about Lebanon and its government.
We say to the international community that they must not give Hizbullah the right of veto, and if you understand the weakness of Siniora and the weakness of the Lebanese government, you will see that you are in fact giving Hizbullah further power to influence it, to direct its actions. Sometimes, particularly when there is a weak leadership, particularly when there is a leadership that is not capable of speaking to its people and telling them the right thing to do, particularly when there is a leadership that is not capable of implementing the resolutions to which it is ostensibly committed, in these cases the way to strengthen them is to demand that they implement these resolutions. In this way, the leadership tell its people that the only way to get out of the situation that we have gotten into is by implementing the resolutions to which we are committed.
From the situation that has been created as a result of the attacks on Israel and following the IDF campaign in Lebanon against Hizbullah, from this entire process, it is possible to create a completely different window of opportunity in Lebanon, not only as part of the military campaign but also in the wake of it. Something different must come out of it. We understand this, and I hope that the international community also understands its responsibility to produce a result from the situation in Lebanon whose long term result will also affect what is occurring there and will genuinely create a new order. I also saw Siniora’s tears yesterday, and we all cry for our dead, whether publicly or in private. But this is, indeed, the place to tell him to dry his tears and start taking action in order to create a better future, a more normal future, first and foremost for the citizens over whom he is crying. The question of how the future of the entire area will look depends first of all on him, on decisions that he makes, on actions that he implements, and on the question of whether the international community will have both the desire and the power, not merely to make decisions that remain on paper for the history books in the future, but also the power to implement the decisions that are required in Lebanon so that we can live here in peace.
Because Israel will win this struggle, but in my view, the question will not be resolved only by a military campaign and by what will happen the day after, but also in the month after, and in the months after and in the years after. This, among other things, is both our job and theirs. Thank you.