End this tragedy now
Israel must be made to respect international law
By Fouad Siniora
Wednesday, 9 August 2006; A17
A military solution to Israel's savage war on Lebanon and the Lebanese people is both morally unacceptable and totally unrealistic. We in Lebanon call upon the international community and citizens everywhere to support my country's sovereignty and end this folly now. We also insist that Israel be made to respect international humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, which it has repeatedly and willfully violated.
As the world watches, Israel has besieged and ravaged our country, created a humanitarian and environmental disaster, and shattered our infrastructure and economy, putting an intolerable strain on our social and economic systems. Fuel, food and medical equipment are in short supply; homes, factories and warehouses have been destroyed; roads severed, bridges smashed and airports disabled.
The damage to infrastructure alone is running into the billions of dollars, as are the losses to owners of private property, and the long-term direct and indirect costs due to lost revenue in tourism, agriculture and industrial sectors are expected to be many more billions. Lebanon's well-known achievements in 15 years of postwar development have been wiped out in a matter of days by Israel's deadly military might.
For all this carnage and death, and on behalf of all Lebanese, we demand an international inquiry into Israel's criminal actions in Lebanon and insist that Israel pay compensation for its wanton destruction.
Israel seems to think that its attacks will sow discord among the Lebanese. This will never happen. Israel should know that the Lebanese people will remain steadfast and united in the face of this latest Israeli aggression -- its seventh invasion -- just as they were during nearly two decades of brutal occupation. The people's will to resist grows ever stronger with each village demolished and each massacre committed.
On July 25, at the international conference for Lebanon in Rome, I proposed a comprehensive seven-point plan to end the war. It was well received by the conference and got the unanimous and full backing of the Lebanese Council of Ministers, in which Hezbollah is represented, as well as of the speaker of parliament and a majority of parliamentary blocs. Representatives of diverse segments of Lebanese civil society have come out strongly in favor, as has the Islamic-Christian Summit, representing all the religious confessions, ensuring a broad national consensus and preserving our delicate social equilibrium.
The plan, which also received the full support of the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, included an immediate, unconditional and comprehensive cease-fire and called for:
· The release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and detainees through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
· The withdrawal of the Israeli army behind the "blue line."
· A commitment from the U.N. Security Council to place the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills areas under U.N. jurisdiction until border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them are fully settled. Further, Israel must surrender all maps of remaining land mines in southern Lebanon to the United Nations.
· Extension of the Lebanese government's authority over its territory through its legitimate armed forces, with no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state, as stipulated in the Taif accord. We have indicated that the Lebanese armed forces are ready and able to deploy in southern Lebanon, alongside the U.N. forces there, the moment Israel pulls back to the international border.
· The supplementing of the U.N. international force operating in southern Lebanon and its enhancement in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation, as needed, to undertake urgent humanitarian and relief work and guarantee stability and security in the south so that those who fled their homes can return.
· Action by the United Nations on the necessary measures to once again put into effect the 1949 armistice agreement signed by Lebanon and Israel and to ensure adherence to its provisions, as well as to explore possible amendments to or development of those provisions as necessary.
· The commitment of the international community to support Lebanon on all levels, including relief, reconstruction and development needs.
As part of this comprehensive plan, and empowered by strong domestic political support and the unanimous backing of the cabinet, the Lebanese government decided to deploy the Lebanese armed forces in southern Lebanon as the sole domestic military force in the area, alongside U.N. forces there, the moment Israel pulls back to the international border.
Israel responded by slaughtering more civilians in the biblical town of Qana. Such horrible scenes have been repeated daily for nearly four weeks and continue even as I write these words.
Lebanon calls, once again, on the United Nations to bring about an immediate cease-fire to relieve the beleaguered people of Lebanon. Only then can the root causes of this war -- Israeli occupation of Lebanese territories and its perennial threat to Lebanon's security, as well as Lebanon's struggle to regain full sovereignty over all its territory -- be addressed.
I believe that a political resolution rooted in international law and based on these seven points will lead to long-term stability. If Israel would realize that the peoples of the Middle East cannot be cowed into submission, that they aspire only to live in freedom and dignity, it could also be a stepping stone to a final solution of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which has plagued our region for 60 years.
The 2002 Arab summit in Beirut, which called for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace based on the principle of land for peace, showed the way forward. A political solution cannot, however, be implemented as long as Israel continues to occupy Arab land in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights and as long as it wages war on innocent people in Lebanon and Palestine. As Jawaharlal Nehru said, "the only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction."
Enough destruction, dispossession, desperation, displacement and death! Lebanon must be allowed to reclaim its position in this troubled region as a beacon of freedom and democracy where justice and the rule of law prevail, and as a refuge for the oppressed where moderation, tolerance and enlightenment triumph.
The writer is prime minister of Lebanon.
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