Condoleezza Rice's Tenure As Secretary of State - Middle East - 2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict

2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict

In mid-July 2006, the Middle East peace process encountered a new obstacle on a different front when Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon launched rocket attacks into Israel and ambushed Israeli convoys, kidnapping two soldiers and killing three, sparking what has become known as the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Rice immediately condemned the act, calling Hezbollah a "terrorist organization" and saying that the action "undermines regional stability and goes against the interests of both the Israeli and Lebanese people," specifically calling on Syria to "use its influence to support a positive outcome." That day, Rice was one of the first to speak directly to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni concerning the incident. Israel initiated aerial bombardments against Lebanon on July 13 and sent in land troops on July 23 to take out rocket launching sites that were shelling Northern Israeli cities, as well as to look for and recover the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

During the conflict, Rice supported Israel's right to defend itself from Hezbollah attacks, she repeatedly cautioned Israel to be responsible in minimizing collateral damage. Before the major fighting began, Rice demanded that both Israel and Lebanon "act with restraint to resolve this incident peacefully and to protect innocent life and civilian infrastructure." She also continued to pressure Syria to take a more active positive role throughout the crisis, accusing Syria of "sheltering the people who have been perpetrating these acts" and calling on it "to act responsibly and stop the use of its territory for these kinds of activities to bring all pressure on those that it is harbouring to stop this and to return these soldiers and to allow the situation to be de-escalated."

When Rice arrived in the Middle East in July 2006, one of her first moves was an unannounced visit to Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora to praise Siniora's "courage and steadfastness" and show US support for the Lebanese people. Rice stated that the conflict was part of "the birth pangs of a new Middle East," stating that Israel, Lebanon, and the international community had to "be certain that we're pushing forward to the new Middle East not going back to the old one."

At a time when progress appeared possible in the region, the Israeli military launched an airstrike on a suspected Hezbollah hideout in Qana, Lebanon, that killed 20–60 civilians. The airstrike seemed to sour support for Israel's endeavor and Lebanon cancelled a visit by Rice as a result. While the tragedy was a setback in the negotiation process, it seemed to be a turning point for Israel, who, afterward, began taking a path toward a cease-fire. Before Rice left the region on July 27, she was able to negotiate a 48-hour halt on Israeli air-raids.

Rice returned to the Middle East on July 29, when the outlines of the ceasefire to come began to take shape. Rice demanded that the global community do what it could to ensure that the Mideast region would never again return to the "status quo ante." Rice saw the situation as an opportunity to create a new environment in which Israel and Lebanon could live in peace, and in which Lebanon could have full control over all its territories without Hezbollah acting as a "state within a state," being able to launch terrorist attacks on Israel. Building on the two resolutions that came out of the G8 summit and the steps that had been taken at the conference in Rome, Italy in late July, Rice worked with other leaders at the United Nations to pass UN Security Council Resolution 1701 on August 11, 2006, which sought to resolve the crisis. The ceasefire went into effect on August 14. The ceasefire that Rice helped broker provided for a full cessation of hostilities, a Lebanese-led international force to take the place of the Israeli forces, the disarmament of Hezbollah, full control of the Lebanese government to Lebanon, and an absence of paramilitary forces (including and implying Hezbollah) south of the Litani River; it also emphasizes the need for the immediate release of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Rice lauded the outcome and expressed pleasure that the hostilities in the area had been brought to an end. Though there were sporadic, but small, spurts of violence after the ceasefire took effect, it has ultimately sustained, while international peacekeeping forces began to replace Israeli forces. On October 2, 2006, the last Israeli forces were withdrawn, allowing the UN and the Lebanese military to take over.

She had a 30-minute meeting with Walid Muallem, her Syrian counterpart on May 3, 2007—the first such talks at this level since 2005.

Read more about this topic:  Condoleezza Rice's Tenure As Secretary Of State, Middle East

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