Monday, July 17, 2006

An Arab Point of View of the Lebanon - Israeli situation: 'In a Bind"

Reposted from Arab News, Editorial: In a Bind, that was posted in their online newspaper on 17 July 2006. Arab News is one of the first English Daily Newspaper in Saudi Arabia published simultaneously from Jeddah, Riyadh and Dhahran.

DISCLAIMER: The different points of views of Arab News or it’s contributors are not supported nor do they reflect the views and beliefs of the Bosun Locker or any entity affiliated with the Bosun Locker. It is good to get the Arab point of view along with the western reporters and thinkers.

Lebanon's bind is deepening, forced as it is to choose between Israel and Hezbollah. If Beirut is to do what Israel wants — take charge of the entire country, which would include reining in Hezbollah, it stands to enter into a confrontation with the party that could turn into a conflagration not dissimilar to the 15-year civil war which tore the country apart. If Lebanon opts not to go after Hezbollah, it will be continue to get the extraordinary pounding Israel is inflicting upon it. Lebanon should choose neither — Israel for the deplorable killing of over 100 civilians, many of them children, thus far and for the destruction of so much of Lebanon, particularly Beirut, which was painstakingly rebuilt from the ashes of civil strife. Nor should Beirut choose Hezbollah, which, even though it helped liberate southern Lebanon from Israel’s more than 20-year-occupation, has today triggered a crisis when there was no particular reason to do so.

But Beirut must choose. Yet should it decide to start flexing its muscle over Hezbollah, the country could systematically disintegrate. However, it appears the Lebanese government might be heading in a path leading to Hezbollah. Indications that the Lebanese Army might be sent to take control of southern Lebanon, which Hezbollah effectively controls, are a clear signal the government wants to reassert its authority over all Lebanese territory. Should Lebanon take the steps necessary toward staking a claim on the country, it would have international law on its side, the dismantlement of Hezbollah coming under UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which in 2004 called for the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias”.

But any effort by Fuad Siniora’s government to use force against Hezbollah could trigger another bloody civil war.

To avoid such a future, Lebanon must not project a who-is-the-boss attitude. Disarming Hezbollah should be done gradually, through a process of national reconciliation. But the process must start now. The Israeli response to a Hezbollah attack on Haifa will be brutal; world reaction will surely not act as a deterrent. The UN Security Council failed to agree on a statement calling for a cease-fire in Lebanon, despite pleas from the Lebanese prime minister. President Bush will not press Israel to halt its attacks. Hezbollah, meanwhile, is firing waves of rockets ever deeper into Israel, getting closer to Tel Aviv. Neither side is showing signs of backing down from the conflict. The relationship between Hezbollah and the government is complex, but should not be confused. The government is not responsible for Hezbollah’s actions.

Because Hezbollah operates outside the government’s authority, the Lebanese government should not be held responsible for the present mess. States, not parties, should take decisions about going to war. Lebanese civilians and their cities are bearing the brunt of an assault for which Siniora holds both Israel and Hezbollah responsible — the former for using a disproportionate use of deadly force to secure the release of two captured Israeli soldiers, the latter for dragging Lebanon into a conflict the government neither chose nor wanted. Should it take its fate in its own hands, the Lebanese government would be exercising the right and duty it has in extending control over all its territory.

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