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Elias Bejjani is a Lebanese Christian patriot and a good friend of Israel. Bejjani thinks that war between Israel and the Hezbollah is inevitable. He may be right.

However, what seems inevitable in the Middle East is often not so at all. I remember when we all believed that Lebanon would be the second country to sign a peace accord with Israel, and I remember when we all believed that King Hussein of Jordan would not last another year on his throne because he would be wiped out by assassins. We said it every year for a very long time, until King Hussein died in his bed, after having concluded an amicable peace with Israel.

All of us can remember when Turkish-Israeli friendship was taken for granted, and many of us can remember when Iran and Israel were active and close allies. Even in the unchanging Middle East, things change all the time.

I also remember when the goal of Israeli policymakers regarding Lebanon was to get the Lebanese army to deploy in South Lebanon in order to secure the border. The goal was achieved. The Lebanese army deployed in South Lebanon. On August 3, the army that was supposed to secure the southern border of Lebanon fired on our soldiers for no reason, and then the Lebanese government accused Israel of aggression. Instead of grasping at UN Security Council Resolution 1701 as a means to rid themselves of the Hezbollah and bring peace to Lebanon, the Lebanese government has made a mockery of that resolution.

Bejjani also hopes that Israel will oust the Hezbollah as it ousted the PLO in 1982. He is probably not alone. It seems to me that many Lebanese hope that someone, anyone, will stand up for Lebanese freedom: Israel, France, the United States - anyone but themselves.

If they hope for Israeli intervention, they hope in vain. Many things changed since 1982. The first is that Israel learned the bitter lessons of two wars in Lebanon. In the first, Israel did free Lebanon of the PLO. But what did the Lebanese do with their freedom? They massacred some Palestinians, for which Israel took the blame, and then they proceeded to tear their country apart. After that, to stop the chaos of the civil war, they let "sister" Syria take over Lebanon.

For a brief time after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, it looked as though Lebanese patriots of the March 14 movement just might unite and kick out Syria and the Hezbollah. But the Lebanese are Lebanese. You never know when they will stick to the plan, and when they will go back to being Lebanese. The hopes that so many of us had for Lebanon were dashed.

Hezbollah flexed a few muscles and Lebanese patriots scuttled away to huddle under the banners of "unity" and "national dialogue." They united, as usual, behind the slogan of "edbach al yahood" - murder the Jews. Not only the relatively reasonable Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, embraced the cause of Hezbollah, but even the Christian Michel Aoun vowed his loyalty to "sister Syria" and its Islamist ally, the Hezbollah. The Christians and the Druze joined in the Islamist cries of "Murder the infidels," without stopping to think, "Hey wait a minute, that's us." Lebanese politics are Levantine. The term "Levantine" was coined because the term "Byzantine" was not sufficient to describe the illogical, contradictory, convoluted and confounded nature of Lebanese politics.

In the second Lebanese war, Israel learned that the elected government of the Lebanese stood foursquare behind the Hezbollah war criminals and supported both the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldiers and the murderous rocket fire on northern Israel. Israel also learned that the great powers, through the United Nations, would never allow Israel to do what is needed in Lebanon, and that the Lebanese people were happy to shield the Hezbollah with their lives. Almost nobody in Lebanon protested. Hardly any politicians spoke out. Israel was roundly condemned both in Lebanon and around the world for a war it did not start and did not want - a war that began only because Lebanon shields the terrorist and genocidal Hezbollah organization, and because no Lebanese of any confession or political persuasion will lift a finger to stop them. Many may want to remove the Hezbollah, but they seem to be waiting for some external deus ex machina to float into the stage of history and save them.

The Lebanese government made it clear time and again that it supports the Hezbollah, and so have leading Lebanese journals. When it still could have done so, the Lebanese government did not lift a finger to disarm the Hezbollah, as was required both by the Taif accords and UN Security Council resolution 1559 The Lebanese were unwilling or unable to raise an army, so they subcontracted the defense of their country to the Hezbollah. Even their French allies gave up on them.

The Second Lebanon war cost the lives of about 150 Israelis and many times more Lebanese. A war to eliminate Hezbollah would exact perhaps ten times as many casualties on both sides. How can any Lebanese expect Israel to make such a sacrifice to free Lebanon, when they themselves were unwilling to do anything? If the Hezbollah start a war, Israel will defend itself and no more. It is not realistic to expect that we will try to eliminate the Hezbollah, to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers and civilians if it is not necessary to do so for the defense of Israel. As for the rest of the world, it may be too much to hope that they will even allow us to even do what is necessary to defend ourselves.

Suppose there is a war with Iran, and suppose that as Bejjani thinks, Israel and the U.S. and the rest of the Western countries will all be fighting on the same side, an unlikely occurrence. Israel will have its hands full coping with Iran. In any case, that coalition will need the support of the Arab states and of Turkey. The latter will hardly be likely to support the war if Israel starts a war with Lebanon as well.

And suppose Israel could do as the Lebanese dreamers ask, and remove the Hezbollah. For how long will Lebanon remain free after that, if its people will not agree among themselves even on the vital issue of defending their freedom? How can Lebanon function as a nation, if there is an unending supply of Lebanese politicians willing to sell themselves to Syria, to Iran or to the Devil himself for the right price, while the Lebanese do nothing except try to enjoy the "good life" and pretend there is no problem? Nobody can free Lebanon unless the Lebanese people are willing to unite and free their own country.

Ami Isseroff





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Replies: 2 Comments

Concerns about Israeli hostilities with Hizbullah are nothing new, but based on recent pronouncements from Syria, if the situation degenerates, fighting could take on a regional dimension not seen since 1973.
http://tiny.cc/pvosj

Jerusalem Center, Wednesday, August 11th


I would think that those "Lebanese patriots" ought to be required to prove themselves first. It might be logical for Israel to arm them with the goal being to begin a war of national liberation. After they have proven themselves a viable, survivable guerrilla force, then perhaps Israeli cooperation could increase further, to the point of expelling Hezbollah. In the late 1700s the French required nothing less of America's Continental Army.

Howard Wolf, Friday, August 6th


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