Despite the Israelis announcing a 48 hour ceasefire a few days ago, it only took the Israeli Air Force one hour to violate it by flying over Beirut, and continuing its attacks on the south this morning.
Today, Israeli PM Olmert decided to widen the ground offensive in Lebanon, possibly up to the Litani River, and resume air strikes with full force.
Israel Radio, Israel Army Radio and a senior Israeli government official said ground forces would reach the Litani River, about 30 kilometers north of the Israeli-Lebanese border.
When Ephraim Sneh, a senior Israeli Labor Party lawmaker was asked by Israel Radio how long troops would hold on to that territory, up to the Litani, Sneh said: "We are not talking about days we are talking about longer, but not about months."
What does that imply? Weeks or that the Israelis will indefinitely hold on to the south of Lebanon if they are able to defeat Hizbullah?
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a senior Cabinet minister, said Israel wants to establish a Hizbullah-free zone in south Lebanon. "This is the same area where we want a multinational force to be deployed," he told Army Radio. He said he expected the ground offensive to take "between 10 days to two weeks."
Sneh said the goal of the offensive is "not to occupy south Lebanon" but to hold onto the territory until a multinational force can be deployed to the Israel-Lebanon border.
The big question is whether the Lebanese political community will accept multinational forces - which they have not. Indeed, there is some talk of asking for a multinational force in northern Israel. If an agreement is ever worked out, there should be such a zone. Since 2000, Hizbullah violated the Blue Line on the Israeli-Lebanese border 100 times, while Israeli violated that line 11,782 times. (These numbers are based on UN observers and were cited by Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabi Berri in his interview with Al-Arabiya TV).
Israel would of course never stand for this unless strong-armed into doing so by the US, but with Washington backing Israel under the mantle of the so-called 'war on terror' and the strong pro-Israel lobby, this seems highly improbable. International pressure will have minimal effect, unless serious i.e. sanctions of various forms, as applied to South Africa to end apartheid (oh, but one forgets, the US is the only country to vote against 12 UN resolutions condemning various aspects of and/or calling of an end to apartheid in South Africa between 1981 and 1993 (145-1, 124-1, 136-1 etc.), a period when VP Dick Cheney was in Reagan's administration.) This is as much America's war as it is Israel's, and as for Iraq and Afghanistan, will only be 'resolved' or 'mission accomplished' when Washington decides.