Moment of Truce
The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with the cease-fire in Lebanon mostly holding up, which prompted "monster traffic jams" as massive numbers of Lebanese navigated ruined roads and tried to get back to their villages in the south. USA Todayleads with and the NYT fronts new Census figures showing recent immigrants, particularly Mexicans with little education, increasingly moving beyond the traditional gateway states. The Washington Postgoes across-the-top with a local take on the Census data—the number of immigrants in the D.C.-area has topped 1 million—and puts the cease-fire in the traditional lead spot.
The NYT says returning refugees expressed "hatred against Israel—and, to a striking degree in this normally Western-leaning nation, against America." Said one refugee, "Bush did this."
There has been some low-scale fighting—Israel said it killed seven Hezbollah guerillas who approached troops, while Hezbollah launched about 10 rockets into southern Lebanon. Israel has also kept up its blockade of Lebanon.
But the real near-term stumbling block for the cease-fire is, as Slate's Fred Kaplan notes, "sequencing": Hezbollah said it won't skedaddle until Israel leaves. Israel says it won't leave until the U.N. and Lebanese troops replace it, while the Lebanese Army yesterday suggested they won't move in while Israeli and Hezbollah are still facing off.
Of course, with neither side much interested in escalating at the moment, it's possible the sequencing could work out: Haaretz says a vanguard of the newly beefed-up U.N. force is planning to deploy in just a few days with the Lebanese Army to quickly follow.
Then there are the bigger, long-term issues: Hezbollah said it has no interest in disarming, thank you. "This is out of the question," said one Hezbollah official. Instead, as a Lebanese government official told the NYT, Hezbollah fighters will probably stick around the south, "maybe melting away. Being active, but not in a military way."
"This may not be an end to the war but a respite," says a NYT analysis, in a conclusion that's widely echoed.
An LAT analysis points out that not only is Hezbollah "deeply rooted" among residents in the south, it "was founded and flourished under Israeli occupation and international observer forces." And while Hezbollah is sticking around, "The reality is, they have weakened the [Lebanese] government significantly," said one professor in Beirut. "What room do they have to maneuver? If Nasrallah says he won't give up the weapons, what are they going to do?"
As for the P.R. war, Hezbollah celebrated, complete with a "noisy victory parade" while "fireworks rose into the sky over Beirut." Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared a "strategic victory," reiterated that Hezbollah won't disarm, and promised quick help with rebuilding. "You will not have to stay in line or wait," he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli politicians began a round of recriminations. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's take was nominally triumphant but subdued. "The Israeli military prevailed in all of its encounters with Hezbollah," he said, adding there were "failings and shortcomings." There are rising calls for Olmert to resign.
Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.