Diplomatic impotence has rarely been as evident as it was in Rome yesterday. The so-called core group of advisers on Lebanon spent much of the morning in the Italian foreign ministry, debating whether to attach the adjective "immediate" to its call for a ceasefire; eventually, it decided against, for fear of ridicule. Meanwhile, Israel and Hizbollah continued to go at each other hammer and tongs. The first has said that it will press on with its offensive, and that it plans to set up a narrow security strip across its northern border until an international stabilisation force can be deployed. The second has threatened to take the fight deeper into Israel, which it subjected yesterday to a barrage of rocket attacks.
One wonders what purpose Condoleezza Rice's trip to the Middle East and Europe has served. The views she expressed yesterday were clear before she left Washington: that the Bush Administration is giving the Israelis carte blanche, in the belief that they can neutralise Hizbollah and thereby lay the basis for a new political dispensation in Lebanon, as opposed to reverting to the status quo ante. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Rome communiqué merely talked about a ceasefire as being of the utmost urgency. As for a stabilisation force, that appears well down the line; countries advocating it have been quick either to claim that they are busy elsewhere (America and Britain) or to set pre-conditions that are unlikely to be fulfilled (France and Germany). The main outcome of yesterday's conference was the opening of corridors for the injection of humanitarian aid to the Lebanese. That barely merited a gathering of this kind. Source.