I am still not sure there is much clarity regarding Israel's reported agreement to delay
its air attack in southern Lebanon:
Israeli officials said nothing publicly about the suspension early Monday, and Mr. Ereli noted that Israel reserved the right to strike at militants preparing attacks against it.
An Israeli official in the prime ministerâs office, who did not want to be identified, simply confirmed the State Department statement, saying, âIsrael will be suspending aerial activity over southern Lebanon for 48 hours until the end of the Israeli investigation into Qana.â
As I mentioned in the post
below, a report
stated that the bombing would only be stopped in the Beirut area, a request the U.S. had made several days ago.
This is an important distinction for several reasons. First, for the Qana incident to occur while Rice was in Jerusalem ostensibly for peace talks is deeply embarrassing. Second, it prevented her from shuttling to Lebanon for further talks and made it likely that she would return to Washington with nothing to show for her efforts, another embarrassment. Third, if the Israelis only agreed to do something that the U.S. had already been urging for days, then neither the Israelis nor the Americans actually conceded anything in response to Qana, which has political implications not just in the region but in Europe as well.
It was certainly odd for the announcement of a major change in the conduct of Israeli military operations to be publicly announced by the U.S., rather than by Israel. It certainly gives the appearance that the Israelis allowed the Americans to make the announcement so that Condi could depart with at least a fig leaf of accomplishment. The question now is did they give her even a fig leaf?