WH Reporters Push for Unenforceable Ceasefire

July 24th, 2006 12:48 PM

At today's White House press briefing, reporters kept pushing Bush spokesman Tony Snow as to why the administration hasn't been pressuring Israel to go for a non-enforceable ceasefire with Hezbollah in order to avoid bad PR for having a "disproportionate" response to terrorism.

That makes no sense, Snow replied since basically this line of thought involves asking Israel to incur civilian categories in order to look better. Reporters, such as CBS's Jim Axelrod insisted that wasn't what they were saying but provided no evidence to the contrary. Transcript excerpt below. Full text here.

JIM AXELROD: On Lebanon, there seems to be two tracks that have emerged. There are those calling for an immediate cease-fire; there are those calling for a sustainable cease-fire. And the sustainable camp says there's a risk -- if you just call for an immediate, you'll be back here in three weeks or three months. Isn't it worth the risk if you stop innocent Israelis and Lebanese from being killed; isn't it worth taking that risk while you try to bang out something more sustainable?

TONY SNOW: The question is whether that's a fool's errand, Jim. The idea that you suspend -- number one, there's a notion that somehow both sides are going to suspend, and we remain deeply skeptical that Hezbollah is going to abide by any such agreement. But the more important thing is, sustainable really does matter, because as we've seen in some places, if you allow terrorists to proclaim victory and to continue to take root within a country, you actually encourage further misbehavior. There's no place on the record where as a result of a negotiation a terrorist organization has said, okay, we give up, great treaty.

So instead I think the most important thing is to put into place conditions where you'll have a sustainable cease-fire. What does that mean? It means that Hezbollah not only returns the soldiers, not only returns the rockets, but either decides or lacks the capability to weaken the government of Lebanon by operating independently of that government and serving as a rogue force that is capable of not only seizing territory, destabilizing within Lebanon, threatening the Lebanese government, threatening the Lebanese people, but also threatening the peace of the region.

So the sustainable cease-fire is one that is not going to enable Hezbollah to declare victory, but instead will allow the people of Lebanon to look forward to peace and prosperity.

Go ahead.

AXELROD: If you -- I don't think there's any disagreement about the goal, even the folks calling for an immediate cease-fire want to see something sustainable. The point is, what do you do in the interim -- this risk everyone is talking about, that you could be back there in three weeks? So what? So you're back there in two weeks. In the meantime, you've had three weeks less of --

SNOW: No, you're assuming that there are three peaceful weeks. And I'm not going to take out the crystal ball. I'm telling you what our position is, which is --

AXELROD: About your position, though, if they're not peaceful weeks, doesn't that, in some way, also insulate the administration, the Israelis from criticism from people saying that response is disproportionate. Doesn't that improve and strengthen your position to say, hey, we tried it, we called for it, and it didn't happen?

SNOW: I don't think continued civilian deaths strengthens anybody's position. What you're saying is if there are further civilian casualties, it strengthens our position from a debating point of view.

AXELROD: (Inaudible.)

SNOW: Well, no, that is -- no, that is if you call for a cease-fire that is unenforceable, that is not enforced and people suffer, that is the practical consequence. The point is, there's no give on this. The United States believes in a sustainable cease-fire. Secretary Rice is in the region talking about it. She had a very good meeting today with key leaders in Lebanon and they talked about that. They also talked about humanitarian assistance and a number of other topics.

So I think the notion that you have a cease-fire that, at this point, is unenforceable, does not really get us to the point we need to be at. You do not want to give -- you simply don't want to go there.