Lebanon's latest cease-fire is successful -- but how long will it last?
Lebanon's week-long cease-fire has brought much needed relief to this war-weary country. However, there is nothing to suggest that it is more than a cease-fire in the strictest definition of the word: a temporary cessation of warfare by mutual agreement of the involved parties.
While it has lasted longer than any of the other 30 ceasefires arranged since the outbreak of fighting in April between the Syrian peacekeeping troops, along with their leftist allies, and the Christian right-wing Phalange party, negotiations are still under way to make it more than provisional.
Also, this cease-fire seems to have a bit of glamour because it took a special committee of Arab foreign ministers two days to work it out. Ambassadors from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are here to take up where their foreign ministers left off in trying to find a permanent end to the fighting.
The Arab League committee that worked out the cease- fire is scheduled to meet again in Riyadh on June 23 and then again in Lebanon on July 4.
The effectiveness of their negotiations will be put to the test between the June 23 and July 4 meeting. Should the cease-fire crumble then, it will indicate the two sides are no closer to a compromise.
Unfortunately, the give-and-take that must happen before June 23 is hard to envision.
The Phalange, with its stronghold in east Beirut still sand- bagged to the hilt, says it is ready to accept a three-point package deal.
"We have accepted [in theory] a package deal which would include an end to ties with Israel on our part in return for an expanded role in the Lebanese Army and the inclusion of other Arab troops in the Arab deterrent force," said Kerim Pakradouni, a leading political strategist and Phalange politburo member.
But the Phalange is unwilling to sever its link with Israel until the second and third points are instituted. Pakradouni said that the Syrians are willing to implement those, but only after the Phalangists break with Israel.
He did say that safety guarantees for the Christian Phalange community could possibly be worked out that would allow it to be weaned from Israel first. Some Arab nations or the United States might shoulder the responsibility of their security, he added.
Despite the Phalangist position, there is nothing to indicate that the Lebanese Army is strong enough yet to take greater control.
More importantly, however, there are no political or physical signs that Syria would relinquish any of the considerable control it has through the presence of 30,000 Syrian soldiers in Lebanon.
As a matter of fact, the Syrians in Beirut have begun building cinder-block guard houses at their multiple checkpoints.
They look as if they are here to stay.
Now that the Lebanese problem has gained international attention -- particularly that of the United States -- the momentum must be propelled forward to a final solution, Pakradouni contends.
This time there must be a political or a military solution and he is not betting on which it will be.
"When my friends ask me if they should replace the broken glass in their windows, I say, 'No, not yet.' But a few weeks ago I would have simp ly said no, " the Phalangist official commented.