© Copyright 1999-2006 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights reserved.
Israel's war in Lebanon in 2006
Added on August 13, 2006
Finally, on the evening of Friday August 11, 2006 the U.N. Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1701 calling for a "cessation of hostilities" in the war between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbollah militia. The cease-fire should begin on Monday August 14, 2006 at 7am European time.
Article added on August 4, 2006
The sad history of conflict in the Middle East continues. Israel's war in Lebanon in 2006 is the latest example. Of course, nobody can object to Prime Minister Olmert protecting his citizens from missiles launched from the Gaza strip by Palestinian militants (including Hamas) and from Lebanon by Hezbollah. However, destroying the principal power station in the Gaza strip is not an acceptable measure, neither is a large scale intervention in Lebanon, destabilizing the multi-religious and multi-ethnic state, the most liberal and modern in the Arab world.
This is not the first time Israel tries to resolve a threat emanating from this neighboring state by force. In 1982, the operation "Peace in Galilee" had the objective to chase away from Lebanon, Yasser Arafat and the combatants of his PLO. The result was not only the massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila - in which Ariel Sharon was implicated who, many years later as prime minister, ended up quickly in a dead end street - but also led to the formation of the Islamist Shiite organization Hezbollah (Army of God) in 1982, the very one Israel now tries to defeat or at least contain.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 adopted on September 2, 2004 called for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah of course. So far, the militant Shiite organization has not conformed with this UN resolution. This is no accident because the Hezbollah emblem is adorned by a hand holding an AK-47 rifle. The Islamists behave like a state within the state and cannot be controlled either by the Lebanese government, or its police or military.
The Shiite population in Lebanon has grown quicker than all other religious groups in Lebanon. Today, they roughly count for half of the Lebanese population. No wonder they ask for more power than the National Pact (al Mithaq al Watani), an unwritten agreement of the summer of 1943, accords to them. The National Pact still rules Lebanese politics, based on the outdated numbers of its religious groups of 1943 [correction added on August 13, 2006: the agreement of 1943 was based on the 1932 census], when the Christians and Sunnis outnumbered the Shiites. Therefore, the [denominational] proportional representation in Lebanese politics still requires the President to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Parliament's speaker a Shiite Muslim. Furthermore, in the Lebanese Parliament, the Shiites are only represented by 21 out of 128 parliamentarians. A solution of the regional crisis should therefore include a new distribution of power in Lebanon.
However, this requires also changes within Hezbollah. Since its creation in 1982, Syria and Iran have supported Hezbollah actively. Moreover, Hezbollah was dedicated to spread the Iran Islamist revolution, an objective they have (above all for tactical reasons) renounced. The dictator of the "authoritarian republic" of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and the anti-Semitic President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are circumstantial allies, who do not share they same ideological and religious convictions.
The "moderate" regimes of the Middle East such as Egypt and Jordan regarded the rise of Hezbollah with suspicion. They were tacit allies of Israel in its war of containment of Hezbollah, until Israel's actions went out of proportion and the Arab regimes had to respond to the public outcry in their countries.
Israel's war in Lebanon 2006 has not only alienated the Hebrew state's tacit Arab allies, but furthermore created a - so far mainly rhetorical - alliance between the Sunnite Hamas and the Shiite Hezbollah and the Shiite Iran.
It is unlikely that Israel's intervention will stop Hamas and Hezbollah from launching Qassam (Kassam), Katyusha, Khaibar I and other rockets on Israeli citizens (specialists estimate that Hezbollah has over 10,000 Katyusha rockets). Even if this should be possible, there is still the danger of a resurgence of suicide attacks by Islamists on Israeli territory. This asymmetric conflict needs a political solution, which will marginalize the extremists once and for all. Of course, there may still remain a few dozen terrorists ready to blow themselves and other up, but if they lose their credibility, they will also lose the support of the Sunni and Shiite population.
Currently, we are far from such a solution. In Kerem Shalom on June 25, 2006 a Palestinian terrorist commando, with or without the support of the political leadership of Hamas - in any case the military branch of Hamas was one of three Palestinian militant groups involved - killed two Israeli soldiers, insured four and abducted one. The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quick in declaring that the Palestinian Authority, presided by Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Government, where entirely responsible for the incident. In consequence, the Israeli army bombarded the Gaza strip. On July 12, 2006 Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers. Israel responded with even heavier attacks on Lebanon.
These events happened at the moment when the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was pushing for a referendum that would implicitly have recognized Israel and when, for the first time, Hamas leaders communicated in vague terms that, under certain conditions, Hamas would be ready to recognize Israel. It seems that the extremists with the Palestinian camp, including Hamas, but also within Hezbollah and the Israeli government were just too eager to sabotage further possible peace talks. Ehud Olmert demonstrated that he was a faithful pupil of his mentor Ariel Sharon, The Bulldozer.
Common sense should indicate to all parties involved that mutual recognition and peace is the best option for everybody. But common sense is too rare a commodity in this area of the world. People with basic historical knowledge will admit that Europe, in this matter, has not the better record, not only because of two World Wars, but also because the British promised the Arabs a Pan-Arab state and - in the 1917 Balfour Declaration - a Jewish national homeland. Without the Shoah or Holocaust, the State of Israel would probably not have been created and the Israeli army would not be as repressive as it is today, creating new enemies at each intervention. History in general as well as the colonial heritage of the region and religious animosities in particular still overshadow a peaceful outcome in the Middle East.
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