The current discussion surrounding an international force for southern Lebanon has focused almost exclusively on which countries and organizations – NATO, the European Union, the United Nations – will provide the troops. This is an important issue, to be sure, but the real question concerns the changes that Israel must undertake in exchange for this force being put in place and assuming the risk of such a mission.
No international force will simply protect Israel from Hezbollah rockets while Israel continues its current strategy. After all, the recent military escalation in the region is at least partly due to that strategy. If an international force simply allows Ehud Olmert’s government to pursue its plans further, the countries that provide troops for the international force will not only be seen as rubberstamping Israeli policy, but will also be dragged into its failure.
To criticize Israel’s strategy as flawed is not to condone the acts of Hamas or Hezbollah or to deny Israel’s right to self-defense. It is merely to point out what should be obvious: Israel’s efforts to find a unilateral solution to its security problems – whether occupation, withdrawal, or separation – have failed.
Unilateral occupation without commitment to a viable Palestinian state has produced only the intifada and suicide bombers. Unilateral withdrawal from Gaza without the prior establishment of a local authority to maintain order has only led to renewed intervention. And the “security fence,” which was to allow for unilateral separation, may hold back suicide bombers but not modern missiles of the kind currently employed by Hezbollah.