In the Hezbollah-Israel war, another pattern resulting from the asymmetric conflict — pitting an armed political party against a state — has been the “battle of the forms.” It is clear that neither party can win the war in the classical Clausewitzian manner: overpower the enemy and take over its territory. To overpower Israel, Hezbollah must occupy it. But it does not even envision advancing into the Galilee. On the other side, Israel rightly hesitates to move too deep into Lebanese territory, not only because of the high number of casualties expected against a universally acknowledged brave and effective resistance. By taking over Lebanese villages, Israel risks turning its anti-Hezbollah war into anti-Lebanon war of conquest — in other words into a classical war with a different enemy.

What does asymmetry mean in terms of victory? A concept used by contract lawyers may be useful on such new terrain of geopolitics: “the battle of the forms.” When offer and acceptance become very close in the formation of a contract, it is the very last formulation that wins the day, hence the advice to business clients to get their version of the last draft to prevail. Between Hezbollah and Israel, success will be defined for each by the last version in the cease-fire contract.

As expected, Israeli won the first victory in the battle of the forms, when U.N Security Council Resolution 1701 was passed on Friday, a month after the conflict began. Hezbollah, through the Lebanese government, did manage to whittle down the request to deploy foreign troops under a U.N. Chapter 7 clause to the deployments of an enhanced UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force) in the south. But the text is resolutely in favor of Israel in practically all the disputed points: acknowledgement that Hezbollah started the war on July 12; prohibition of armed Hezbollah operatives in a large stretch from the Litani River to the border; principle of exclusive power of the Lebanese security forces and army across the country; prohibition of weapons and support from outside forces (read Syria and Iran) to non-state parties in Lebanon (read Palestinian factions and Hezbollah). An additional boon was given Israel when it was asked to operate its withdrawal from Lebanon “at the earliest” rather than “immediately.”

Another Security Council Resolution is in the works. It is expected after the U.N. Secretary General reports back to the Council on the implementation of 1701 in a month’s time, and another battle of the forms has already started over it. How the separation between Hezbollah and Israel works out is crucial. But much will also depend on domestic developments in Lebanon, especially the eagerness of the majority of Lebanese to impose the exclusivity of Lebanese law on the remainder of their territory.

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