The threat to the peace process in the Middle East

Doc. 7540
24 April 1996

REPORT[1]
Rapporteur: Mr. de PUIG,
Spain, Socialist Group


Summary

Current events put the entire Middle East peace process at risk.

Disarmament of the Hizbullah, Israel's withdrawal from the "Security Zone" in south Lebanon and the stationing of a multinational force are called for, as steps towards a comprehensive peace.

I. Draft resolution

1.         The Assembly is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence along the border between Israel and Lebanon, which was provoked by a series of murderous Hizbullah attacks in March.

2.         Israel has the right to defend its people against terrorist attacks, if necessary through the use of force.  Such force should, however, be proportionate and selective.

3.         There can therefore be no justification for the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civil targets and even less for attacks on camps under United Nations protection.  These have claimed many innocent lives, caused much suffering and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to leave their homes.

4.         The Assembly strongly condemns Hizbullah's strategy of hiding ammunition and weapons behind civilians and civilian installations.

5.         The new climate of hatred that is being created puts the entire Middle East peace process, and its achievements, at risk.  Only extremists can benefit from this.

6.         The Assembly strongly supports the diplomatic efforts under way to reach an immediate cease-fire, essential for the re-opening of dialogue and negotiations.

7.         It calls upon the governments of Lebanon and Syria to disarm and control Hizbullah.  As soon as the threats to and attacks on the civilian population in northern Israel have ended, the Israeli government should be prepared to withdraw its forces from the "security zone" in south Lebanon.

8.         The subsequent stationing of a multinational force along the Israeli-Lebanese border would meet Israeli and Lebanese security concerns and could be an important stabilising factor.

9.         The Assembly reiterates its commitment to a comprehensive peace process in the region, to include Lebanon and Syria.  Such a process would be the best guarantee against a repetition of the current tragic events.

10.        The Assembly appeals to the Israeli observer delegation to support such a peace process.

II. Explanatory memorandum

by Mr. de PUIG

I.          Introduction

1.         On 4 March, Lebanese Hizbullah terrorists killed four Israeli soldiers in the so-called "security zone" occupied by Israel in south Lebanon.  In the days and weeks following, they repeatedly attacked Israeli soldiers in the zone.  On 8 April, following the killing of a Lebanese boy by a bomb, Hizbullah fired Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, wounding 36 Israeli citizens.

2.         In response, Israel started its military operation called "Grapes of Wrath" against Hizbullah on April 11th.

II.        Operation "Grapes of Wrath"

3.         Israeli artillery, aircraft and navy launched multiple attacks against targets in South Lebanon as well as in Beirut and other cities.  Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres declared Israel had no claim on Lebanese territory, but aimed at the total destruction of Hizbullah's military and political infrastructure.

4.         As a result of the Israeli actions, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in Beirut or northern Lebanon.  Many, including many children, have been killed in the Israeli raids.  On 18 April, close to one hundred Lebanese civilians were killed when Israeli artillery hit a UN peacekeeping base near Tyre, where they had sought refuge.

5.         At the time of writing, Hizbullah continues its daily Katyusha attacks on northern Israel, in spite of on-going Israeli attacks.

6.         Certain analysts have linked Israel's decision to use military force against Hizbullah to electoral objectives.

III.       Current Diplomatic Efforts

7.         Both Israel and Lebanon appear determined to achieve a cease-fire, however under diverging conditions that seem to be incompatible.  French and U.S. diplomats as well as representatives of the European Union, Russia and Iran are trying to mediate between the two sides.

8.         Israel so far only accepts the U.S. initiative under which Syria is to control and guarantee a permanent cease-fire and eventual disarming of Hizbullah.  Syria has stationed up to 40,000 soldiers in Lebanon, supports Hizbullah and plays a major part in the negotiations.

9.         Syria and Lebanon favour the French initiative that calls for an immediate yet limited cease-fire during which the "understanding" reached in July 1993 (no Hizbullah attacks on Israeli territory, no Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians) should be confirmed in writing and reinforced by international guarantees.  The creation of a multinational force in south Lebanon as part of this agreement has been proposed.

IV.       Conclusions

10.        The escalation of violence along the border between Israel and Lebanon was clearly provoked by a series of murderous Hizbullah attacks in March.  Even though Israel has the right to defend its people against terrorist attacks, its indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civil targets in Lebanon cannot be justified.  Many innocent civilians, including many children, have been killed or wounded and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians have been forced to leave their homes.

11.        The new climate of hatred that is being created puts the entire Middle East peace process and its achievements at risk and will only benefit extremists.

12.        For these reasons, the diplomatic efforts to reach an immediate cease-fire should be strongly supported.  The governments of Lebanon and Syria should disarm and control Hizbullah, following which Israel should be prepared to withdraw its forces from the "security zone" in Lebanon.  The subsequent stationing of a multinational force along the Israeli-Lebanese border would meet Israeli and Lebanese security concerns and could be an important stabilising factor.

13.        Only a comprehensive peace process in the region, to include Lebanon and Syria, can offer a durable solution and should be strongly supported by the Assembly.


Reporting committee:  Political Affairs Committee.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none.

Reference to committee: Reference No. 2072 of 23 April 1996.

Draft resolution adopted by the committee on 24 April 1996 unanimously.

Members of the committeee: Mr. Bársony (Chairman), Lord Finsberg (Vice-Chairman, MM. van der Linden (Vice-Chairman), Alvarez Cascos, Antretter, Baumel, Mrs Belohorska (Alternate: Mr. Prokes), MM. Bergqvist, Bernardini, Björck, Bloetzer, Bokov, Büchel, Bühler, Caputo, Cem, Cerqueda Pascuet, Chornovil, Deasy, Demiralp, Desyatnikov (Alternate: Mr. Bogomolov), Diacov, Eörsi, Fassino, Galanos, Gjellerod, Gotzev, Gricius, Hardy, Irmer, Iwi_sik, Kalus, Kaspereit, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM. Martínez, Masseret, Medeiros Ferreira, Mota Amaral, Muehlemann, Nothomb, Mrs Ojuland, MM. Oliynik, Paasilinna, Pahor, Pavlidis, Popovski, Pottakis, Pozzo, Radulescu Botica, Mrs Ragnarsdóttir, MM. Schieder, Schwimmer, Severin, Sinka (Alternate: Mrs Kusnere), Sir Dudley Smith, MM. Špa_ek, Spahia, Mrs Suchocka, MM. Thoresen, Urbain, Vella, Woltjer, Zhirinovsky (Alternate: Mr. Glotov), Ziuganov (Alternate: Mr. Lukin).

N.B. The names of those members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries of the committee:  Mr. Hartland, Mr. Kleijssen.


[1]. by the Political Affairs Committee