J'lem expects cease-fire deal to fail



Israel intends to abide by the cease-fire when it takes effect on Monday morning, even though senior Israeli officials assume that Hizbullah will not honor it, officials close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday night.

The officials said the working assumption at the Prime Minister's Office was that Hizbullah would not honor the agreement and that the world would then comprehend Israel's predicament more than ever. At press time, the Lebanese cabinet had not given final approval to the cease-fire.

"When Hizbullah violates the cease-fire, the world will see who the aggressor is and will understand us," a source close to Olmert said. "We will insist that the agreement be implemented. It's a good agreement for Israel and Hizbullah's opposition is proof."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the cease-fire included a clause allowing an international force to be given expanded powers if the agreement were violated. Livni spoke late Sunday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Phillipe Douste-Blazy and told them how important it was for Israel that both sides be held to the agreement. A joint Foreign and Defense Ministry delegation to Russia on Monday will deliver a similar message and will complain about Russian-made missiles that downed an Israeli helicopter on Saturday.

"From Israel's point of view, we will do what we have to do bring about the resolution," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. "We have less control over what the Arab side does. If there are violations on the Arab side, Israel will have to respond. It is inconceivable that Israel will keep the agreement unilaterally. It has to be an agreement for both sides to keep."

OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin gave the cabinet a pessimistic report about the chances of Hizbullah abiding by the agreement. Such skepticism persuaded Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz to abstain in a cabinet decision endorsing the cease-fire that passed 24-0. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said he voted in favor because he did not believe Hizbullah would abide by it, and then Israel would have international legitimacy to destroy Lebanese infrastructure.

But UN Security-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the government over the weekend warning that if one side was fired upon, the other side should not respond except in immediate self-defense. A source in the Prime Minister's Office called Annan's letter unacceptable and said a team was working on a letter in response that would reiterate the IDF's right to respond to Hizbullah if it broke the cease-fire.

Livni called a press conference following Sunday's cabinet meeting to defend the cease-fire. She said that Israel's position was dramatically better than before Hizbullah started the war on July 12 because the Lebanese army and international forces would be on the border instead of Hizbullah.

"I am not na ve, I live in the Middle East and I know that not every decision in the Middle East gets implemented," she told reporters at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. "But I still say it's good for Israel. It can lead to the real change in the Middle East that we have all been waiting for if the international community implements the decision."

Livni said the UN decision came at Israel's initiative and was not forced upon Israel. She said Israel asked for international forces to be placed in southern Lebanon when it became clear that the Lebanese government was too weak to take over southern Lebanon from Hizbullah. She said that Israel also succeeded in obtaining an enforced arms embargo on Hizbullah and that its demand for the IDF to remain in Lebanon until the international force arrived was accepted.

"Hizbullah will no longer be a country within a country, and the Lebanese government from now on will have to take responsibility for what comes out of their country," Olmert told the cabinet. "The UNIFIL force that will arrive in Lebanon will not be like the UNIFIL that we knew before. There will be a major change in the force, which will now be made up mostly of people from NATO countries who will have the authority to enforce the cease-fire."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said tough questions would have to be asked after the war. "The war exposed many issues, both regarding the fighting and the home front, that require review and drawing of conclusions," he said.

He told the ministers that the current IDF operation in southern Lebanon would enable the demilitarization of the region and its transfer to the control of the UN and the Lebanese army.

According to Peretz, "The main question is how Hizbullah will react; in any case, we are preparing for all the scenarios."

He said Israel was in contact with UNIFIL to establish a mechanism that would coordinate the deployment and IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres praised the UN decision, saying that it "restores the authority to the Lebanese government, ends the weapons supply to Hizbullah and distances Hizbullah from the border, brings the deployment of 30,000 Lebanese soldiers and international forces, and calls unequivocally for the release of the kidnapped soldiers."

Mofaz told the cabinet that he favored a cease-fire but the agreement was unsatisfactory. He said he could not vote for an agreement that would not bring home the kidnapped soldiers or guarantee the end of Hizbullah.

"We cannot be left with a piece of paper in our hands that will not be implemented," Mofaz said. "There is nothing specific about dismantling Hizbullah so it will not be dismantled. Any other country that had more than 4,000 missiles fired upon its people would not accept a draft whose implementation is left in doubt."