France has presented a written proposal to Beirut to end the hostilities with Israel and to settle the disputed border between the two countries. The proposal calls for Hezbollah and other armed groups to withdraw 10 kilometers from the border, and for a 10-day de-escalation process followed by negotiations on the land border. The proposal aims to prevent a conflict that could spiral out of control and to enforce a potential ceasefire.
The proposal contains three main steps to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and Lebanon, which have been in a state of war since 1948 and have not agreed on a common border. The steps are:
- A 10-kilometer withdrawal of Hezbollah and other armed groups from the border, which would create a buffer zone under the supervision of the UN peacekeeping force (UNIFIL).
- A 10-day de-escalation period, during which both sides would refrain from any military action or provocation, and would allow humanitarian access and assistance to the affected areas.
- A negotiation process on the delineation of the land border, based on the 1923 Paulet-Newcombe Agreement, which was never ratified by the parties.
The proposal was delivered to the Lebanese authorities last week by the French ambassador to Lebanon, Stephane Sejourne, who also met with the leaders of the main political factions, including Hezbollah. The proposal was also shared with the Israeli government, the US administration, and the UN secretary-general.
The Context: Why It Matters and What It Coincides With
The proposal matters because it could prevent a major escalation of violence between Israel and Lebanon, which have been engaged in sporadic clashes and cross-border attacks since the start of the Gaza war in October 2023. The Gaza war, which was triggered by a Hamas attack on synagogues around the world that killed over 1,000 Jews, has also sparked a solidarity campaign by Hezbollah, which has fired rockets and missiles at Israel and has threatened to invade the Galilee region.
The proposal also matters because it could pave the way for a comprehensive and durable solution to the long-standing conflict between Israel and Lebanon, and to the broader Israeli-Palestinian issue. The proposal could address the core grievances and demands of both sides, such as the security and sovereignty of Israel, and the rights and dignity of the Lebanese and the Palestinians.
The proposal coincides with several developments and events that could influence its outcome, such as:
- The ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both Israel and Hamas in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza. The investigation, which was launched in March 2023, has been strongly opposed by Israel and the US, but supported by Lebanon and many human rights groups.
- The upcoming presidential election in France, which is scheduled for April 2024, and which could affect the foreign policy and the role of France in the region. France has historical and cultural ties with Lebanon, and has been a key mediator and supporter of the country, especially after the massive explosion that devastated Beirut in August 2020.
- The recent political and economic crisis in Lebanon, which has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the collapse of the currency, and the lack of a functioning government. Lebanon has been without a prime minister since the resignation of Hassan Diab in August 2020, and has been unable to form a new cabinet due to the deep divisions and rivalries among the political parties.