Sunday, August 13, 2006


I Hope?

Word of a UN mandated cease-fire in the Israeli/Lebanese conflict is a great welcome. Apparently the cease-fire will go into effect 7am Monday morning (Israeli time) although UN Sec Gen Kofi Annan did the logical thing and told both parties they might as well stop fighting now. There are some good things and bad things in this.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 (UNSCR 1701) was passed unanimously, the text of which can be found here .

The most welcoming part of the resolution is that it calls for a ceasefire and has Israel withdrawing from southern Lebanon gradually being replaced by a 15,000 Lebanese soldiers, companied by an increase in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from the current 2,000 to 15,000; with increased authority and abilities.

I'm extremely happy the resolution passed and satisfied with it. Both Israel and Lebanon accept the resolution, and Hizbullah leader Nasrallah made a statement saying he will abide by it. However there are some concerns that I have with it; which Im sure were discussed at the UN but UNSCR 1701 was the result of much debate and comprimise. Here are three concerns:

-The Sheba Farms issue is not solved. The Sheba Farms is an area next to the Golan Heights, captured by Israel from Syria in 1967. However, for a variety of reasons, Syria claims that the Sheba Farms is Lebanese territory; something the Lebanese government first claimed in 2000 when addressing Israeli withdrawal from their 18 year occupation of Southern Lebanon. Hizbullah uses the Sheba Farms issue as a justification for attacks on Israel, including the cross border raid in July that initiated this entire conflict. According to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz, George W. Bush has assured Israeli PM Olmert that he wont have to give up the Sheba Farms. The issue of who owns it has been put to a non-binding study to be led by Kofi Annan. Good Luck!

-Giving the Lebanese Govt more Authority.The resolution has a lot of diplomatic language which basically keeps reiterating that the Lebanese govt has full authority, and no groups can have arms without the consent of the Lebanese govt, that no militias can exist without the consent of the Lebanese govt, etc. etc. The point is to delegitimize Hizbullah and recognize the full authority of the government of Lebanon, and of course assuming (and likely given assurances) the Lebanese government will exercise this authority to take power away from Hizbullah. This is all well and good but Hizbullah is a widely popular political party in Lebanon, it even has 3 cabinent ministers in the Lebanese govt. And if the stories are true that Hizbullah's popularity skyrocketed in Lebanon (across ethnic lines, including an 80% strong approval rating from the large Lebanese Christian population) as a result of the current conflict, wouldnt it be safe to assume that in the next elections, Hizbullah will make huge gains? And what if Hizbullah becomes the majority party, like Hamas in Palestine? Will the US seek to punish the Lebanese people with sanctions and economic strangulation like we are doing to the Palestinian people?

-The Interim is the hardest part. Israel will continue to occupy southern Lebanon until the Lebanese army is deployed, which they are hoping will be in 7-10 days according to Israeli cabinent secretary Yisrael Maimon. Will the ceasefire hold? Hizbullah has said it will abide by the agreement but who knows what can happen. An Israeli minister, Eli Yishai told the Israeli press "I do not trust Hezbollah to abide by the resolution. It must be made clear to Hezbollah that if a single rock is hurled at Israel, we will have to turn the village from which it was hurled into a heap of rubble." Destroying a village if a rock is throw at you? Sounds like they want to adopt their West Bank policies here. Anyway Im hopeful that Eli Yishai is just trying to sound tough and in any event he is the Industry, Labor and Trade Minister, so Im not sure what authority he speaks from.

Hopeful Signs and Final Thoughts

What I hope is that this fragile ceasefire will hold, that Israel will withdraw and the Lebanese government can extend its authority over southern Lebanon. And one of the most important things is the disarmament of Hizbullah, which I truly believe the Lebanese government wants to work towards. It will be difficult because Hizbullah is so popular, but it can be done. I also hope that Hizbullah will make the transition from terrorist organization/political party to just a political party, and I hope that Israel and the USA will accept a Hizbullah led government should it ever occur. In Ireland, the IRA was a terrorist organization that made a transition to political party (Sinn Fein) which now has seats in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Hopefully Hizbullah can make the full transition, because its not going to disappear as a movement (for many reasons) so peaceful transition is the best hope.

The whole point of the war was stupid and unnecessary. The Israeli's claim it was launched in response to IDF soldiers being kidnapped, and Israel would not negotiate with Hizbullah it would just launch attacks until the soldiers were returned. Well the conflict is ending and Ehud Olmert has decided to negotiate with Hizbullah on the soldiers release, which is what he told the soldiers parents on Sunday.

The war was not about these soldiers, that was for PR. The war was a US/Israeli attempt to destroy Hizbullah because it is an independent and powerful Shi'ite militia that is an obstacle to US domination of the Middle East. I never believed it was about the security of Israel, as any terrorism expert, or anyone who reads anything, will tell you that Israel devastating Lebanon and killing almost 1,000 civilians is going (and already has) resulted in 1. A massive new wave of US/Israeli hatred across the middle east, 2. Hizbullah's popularity vastly skyrocketing and 3. Nasarallah becoming the most popular figure in the Arab world in 50 years. Those are all facts, and my opinion is those facts dont make Israel more secure.

Lastly, there is an article in the new issue of the New Yorker by Syemour Hersh, who claims what everyone has already suspected, that the US and Israel had been planning the attacks on Hizbullah for quite some time. He quotes mostly unnamed officials, but they say things like the White House
“has been agitating for some time to find a reason for a preĆ«mptive blow against Hezbollah.” According to his sources, the US wanted to attack Hizbullah as a way of decreasing Iran's leverage and strength in the region as a prelude to a possible US attack on Iran (which is exactly what I said was the motivation when it all started.) Hersh quotes Israeli officials as saying they were also legitimately concerned about Israeli security and according to a former head of Mossad “We do what we think is best for us, and if it happens to meet America’s requirements, that’s just part of a relationship between two friends." I think the operative phrase there is "meet America's requirements." It goes along with what I have been writing a lot about, which is the US uses Israel to do its dirty work in the Middle East, and I strongly believe that is a serious detriment to Israel's overall security, and to a lesser but still important extent, American security.

There may be short term gains in the US/Israeli assault on Lebanon, and the US and Israeli governments may feel good about victory. But it was at the cost of hundreds of unnecessary deaths of the Israeli and Lebanese people. And the long term consequences will likely fall on Israel and the United States, terrorists have been embolded, moderates weakened, and anti-Western sentiment skyrocketing. The US and Israeli governments are victors, but the other victors are Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders throughout the Middle East, all of whom likely just got their second wind.

1 comment:

Kara said...

I think you should have written a paragraph summarizing the debate you took part in saturday night on these very topics. people would probs be interested in something like that as well. just something to think about. :)