Since a cease-fire went into effect Monday morning, people are making up their minds about who won and who lost the war. Both Israel and Hezbollah declared victory, and in several places in Lebanon there were victory celebrations with fireworks, organized by Hezbollah. A lot of people and media in the West say that the civilians on both sides are the greatest victims (if they are balanced) or that the Lebanese people are the victim (heard too often). Another candidate nominated for the position of the loser is the international community, as it failed to bring about an end to the fighting sooner.
Despite Israel's declaration of victory, the Israeli army and the government are criticized severely for not being able to deal better with Hezbollah, so it is not only Hezbollah who questions the effectiveness of Israeli actions. It is clear that Israel did not achieve most of its goals, which were to bring back the kidnapped soldiers, to remove the Hezbollah threat from the border, to deal a fatal blow to Hezbollah and to isolate them by making the price for the Lebanese to support them too high. This last aim was removed after US pressure as it entailed the risk of endangering the Seniora government
. Only the second aim has been achieved more or less, as the Lebanese army and an international force will be stationed south of the Litani river and Hezbollah has to move out. Hezbollah seems to have been somewhat more successful, in the first place because it prevented being wiped out and defeated (the benefit of the weaker party always is that holding its own alone is a victory), but also because the adopted UN SC resolution reflects some of its aims: the freeing of the Israeli soldiers is not included in the operational part, and the introduction deals both with the Israeli soldiers and Lebanese prisoners in Israel. Moreover, the resolution puts the question of the exact borders, and more specifically the Sheba Farms, back on the table although the UN had ruled clearly that they are not Lebanese
and that there are no more border disputes between Israel and Lebanon after Israel pulled out in 2000. Although it is positive that there will be a stronger international force that together with the Lebanese army will be deployed along the border, it is not clear if Hezbollah will be disarmed and who will carry this out. Also, it is unclear how the arms embargo on Hezbollah will be enforced. The international force will mainly assist the Lebanese army and only engage in combat at its request, and the Lebanese army consists for about 50% of Shi'ites who in majority support Hezbollah. Moreover, for this embargo to be effective, there should be border control along the entire Lebanese-Syrian border as well as control at the airport and seaports.
Although Hezbollah said it would comply with the resolution, in a speech on Monday evening Nasrallah explained that the question of Hezbollah disarmament is very bad for Lebanese unity and dismissed also disarmament south of the Litani as 'insulting to the heroic resistance of its fighters' and all the people there who held out against the 'Zionist enemy'. He encouraged the deployment of the Lebanese army, but stressed that Hezbollah is part of Lebanon, its politics and society. So it is clear that Hezbollah will not move north voluntarily, and some 'pressure' and probably violence is needed to bring this about. As the violence of the Israeli army was not sufficient, it is unclear how the Lebanese army or the international force can do this. Today, the Lebanese minister of defense made clear that the Lebanese army will indeed not use violence against Hezbollah, and there seems to be a compromise in the making
that will let them keep their weapons, even in the south:
A compromise agreement now being hammered out between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government would allow the Shi'ite guerillas to keep hidden weapons in south Lebanon, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.
While Hezbollah would need to keep the weapons it possesses south of the Litani River hidden, an agreement for areas north of the river would be "left to a long term solution," the paper reported.
Of course, all of this was to be expected and that is why Israel wanted to wipe them out or chase them away BEFORE the international force and the Lebanese army would come in. We should not forget that the total disarmament of Hezbollah was demanded in UN resolutions 1559
, and the ambivalent wording of the resolution in this respect can be viewed as a kind of reward for Hezbollah. For example, the non-issues of Sheba Farms and the Lebanese prisoners are put on the table again. Hezbollah is already strengthening its position in Lebanese society and politics with its mass celebrations and promises to help all people who lost their homes. This is bad for peace and bad for Lebanon.
Despite all this, Israel praised the resolution and says it means a victory and addresses most of its concerns. It is always nicer to tell your people about a victory then to acknowledge a defeat. Moreover, as Israel agreed to the resolution, it could not say afterwards that it is worthless. It had to agree to it, as the UN SC adopted it unanimously and a refusal would have meant grave problems with the USA, which had given Israel plenty of time to deal with the Hezbollah before. But it was not only USA pressure that caused Israeli agreement with this resolution. Israel probably wanted an end to the war itself, especially as it became clear that it could not defeat Hezbollah in one or two more weeks, and criticism on the government and the army increased, and the 1.5 million people in the north longed for a return to normal life.
In every war, the ordinary people on both sides are the main victims. The feeling of a lot of people that the international community failed, and especially Kofi Annan's remark that it is a shame that it took so long before the UN adopted a resolution and put an end to the fighting, is a bit peculiar however. If one compares this war with other wars, and the number of victims with that in other recent wars, the international community acted very quick and decisive. It took much much longer to get the UN acting in Sudan, and still this 'problem' isn't solved. Still more people die there every week than died in the Lebanon war, and millions of refugees live in inhuman conditions. If the UN would put remotely the pressure on the Janjaweed and the Sudanese government that it puts on Israel, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. This didn't happen because of Chinese and Russian oil interests and pressure of the Arab League, that always whines when Israel kills Arabs, but looks the other way when Arabs kill other people. That, Mr. Annan, is a shame, and something to raise your voice about.
Was the war worth fighting? In the first place, it is not for me to judge about that, and with me, lots of liberal European pundits who always know what is good for Israel and what it should do or not do.
I feel very sorry for the victims on both sides, who might or might not have supported this war or the Hezbollah actions that lead to it, but nevertheless paid for it with their lives. But I feel as much sorry for the over 100 Israeli soldiers, who paid with their lives for the safety of northern Israel. I have my doubts about some of the bombings, that didn't hurt the Hezbollah so much but mostly Lebanese citizens, and seemed to be meant at least in part for showing the home front that Israel is strong. I had the feeling from the start that Israel went into this war too hastily and badly prepared. It knew Hezbollah is well equipped, well trained and dug in in the south, and has thousands of rockets. It did underestimate its enemy and paid a high price for it.
To people who say it was not worth fighting this war, I ask: what was the alternative? Negotiating with Hezbollah? That would have been a very big victory for them for sure. Bringing the case to the UN? Yes, but with no pressure this would not have accomplished anything. The problem is, Israel has some real enemies, that it cannot make peace with because they aim to destroy Israel. Israel can make peace with states that realize that this aim is not realistic and does not serve their interests, as it did with Egypt and Jordan. Hezbollah is not of that kind, as it is a private militia with an Islamist Jihadist ideology, and Iran is not of that kind as it has the same ideology and calls openly for a world without Zionism, and Syria until now chooses to align itself with this extremist ideology instead of realism and pragmatism. It has been the most radical and anti-Western of Israel's neighbors, and as long as it chooses to be so, and harbors and funds terrorist organizations, Israel cannot make peace with it either. Without this war, there had been no international force probably and no Lebanese army in the south. Israel did not do so well, but it accomplished something for sure, that was not possible without war. Maybe the saddest thing is, that because only part of the cause of this war is addressed in the UN resolution, and Hezbollah is rewarded in more than one respect for its violence, it will only be a matter of time till the next war will come. And that is the biggest failure of the international community and something it should be ashamed of.Ratna Pelle
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