In a fundamental shift in policy, Israel's Cabinet today formally accepted a 1978 U.N. resolution calling for an Israeli troop withdrawal from south Lebanon and urged the Lebanese government to enter negotiations on security arrangements.
But whether the vote actually brought Israel any closer to withdrawal was unclear. Critics within Israel dismissed the move as a ploy to distract attention from stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Israel's intentions were serious.
"It's an indication of our intention to resolve the Lebanon question once and for all, and we hope that other governments -- but especially the government of Lebanon -- will heed this call and enter into discussions with us on how to implement it," he told reporters.
Lebanese President Elias Hrawi dismissed the action as a "trial balloon" and said Israel must withdraw from Lebanon unconditionally.
"Lebanon will not negotiate with Israel over the withdrawal," he told reporters.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 425, adopted in 1978 after Israel first invaded Lebanon to wipe out Palestinian guerrilla bases, calls for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the south.