WASHINGTON - Despite the events in Qana, the US is decided in its rejection of an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hizbullah. Minutes after speaking on the telephone with US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice (who currently in Israel), US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, declared that the United States is not interested in repeating former mistakes.
"We need a sustainable ceasefire. We need to ensure that Hizbullah will not remain in a position that allows it to threaten Israeli security and we need to return sovereignty to the Lebanese government. We cannot allow Hizbullah to sit on the border and launch thousands of rockets at millions of Israelis," said Burns in an interview on ABC's show 'This Week'.
Burns emphasized that, in the event of an immediate ceasefire, "Hizbullah will keep firing on Israelis and Israel will stay in Lebanon." He added that efforts to create a multinational force will continue, stating that several nations expressed willingness to participate in such a force, but refraining from naming them explicitly. Earlier, ynet reported that these states were France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and India, who had been approached by the US.
Rice to return empty-handed?
Despite the fact the Secretary Rice did not visit Lebanon on Sunday, she conducted a number of telephone calls with Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, in order to advance political initiatives. However, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, who accompanied Rice to the Middle East, said that the incident in Qana shattered American diplomatic efforts. According to Mitchell, Rice may return to the US empty-handed, causing Israel to pay a heavy price to revitalize a diplomatic process.
In the meantime, Israel has intensified its PR campaign in the US. Senior Israeli spokespersons were sent to appear opposite Lebanese and Syrian representatives on Sunday talk shows. Vice Premier Shimon Peres appeared on CBS's 'Face the Nation' program, along with PM Lebanese Fouad Siniora. Minister Isaac Herzog appeared opposite the Syrian minister of public relations on CNN, while Israeli UN representative, Danny Gillerman, and Israeli ambassador in Washington, Dan Ayalon, spoke on ABC.
Gillerman stated that "it is important to recall that Hizbullah uses civilians as human shields. It shoots from the midst of the population, which proves the need for disarming the organization. They are holding the Lebanese people hostage."
Ayalon argued with Siniora's security advisor, who labeled Israeli operations, "not a war…(but) war crimes," and called for an immediate and sustainable stop to the killing. Ayalon agreed that 'war crimes' was an applicable term: war crimes undertaken by Hizbullah "who position their forces and their rockets in the midst of civilians."