Monday, July 17, 2006

Lebanon & Israel: where is this bloody thing heading?

The last few days have caught the world, Israel and Lebanon by surprise. It was only a week or so ago that the IDF were in the heart of dense central Gaza blowing up the PA Foreign Ministry (which they blew up again today). A few weeks ago residents of Sderot were getting pissed off that a few primitive rockets were landing over the border. Now residents are being killed in Haifa from Katusha rockets in the North.

Who could possibly imagined such an escalation. Around a year ago, in Lebanon, signs of progress and moves towards democracy are being made. Today, Beirut international airport has been bombed again, Beirut is in disorder.

So let's get past the emotive crap and tells things how they are. Firstly, Hizballah - responding with rockets on Israel with no provocation - what's that about? What occupied land are you talking about? Hizballah is an arrogant and dangerous organisation - not only for Israel but for Lebanon as well.

Israel - every country has a right to self-defence and attackes on Haifa, Tiberias and Safed are absolutely appalling. But responses need to be proportionate. Attacking a civilian airport? A lighthouse? Bridges? The people paying the price are ordinary civilians who mostly want a normal life. And please don't talk to me about everything being about the terrorist threat - that the Lebanese airport is a hub of terrorism. Everything can be linked to terrorism. Sharon in the 1982 war in Lebanon justifed the far worse bombing of beirut on that basis. He allowed his Phalengelist allies to go into Sabra and Chatilla because they needed to cleanse the area of terrorism - and we all know what happened there.

Proportionality is important - it is bothly moral and the smart approach. No one says the IDF can't protect its citizens but greater effort needs to be taken to limit civilian deaths. The harsh reaction - whilst good for the IDF's prestige is likely to move support within Lebanon towards Hezbollah, not the other way. Lebanese are blaming Israelis not Hezbolah for the situation.

In a twisted sadistic kind of way this horrible week in the middle east may provide the opportunity for the international community to get their butt in action and making a genuine and sustained effort in the middle east. Not the piss weak effort that seems to characterise the spineless US envoys that make their way from time to time in the region over the last few years. Real intervention. An internationl force in Southern Lebanon would be a start. But Lebanon is frankly a side issue of this conflict. The core conflict is the Israeli/Palestinian issue. If you want to take out the heat in the middle east tackle this problem. It is not as those stupid neo-cons thought that through Iraq, you solve the Israeli/Pal. conflcit but through the Israeli/Pal. conflict you take out some of the heat in the middle east. Not end it completely - lets not be so stupid to think but for the Israeli/Pal. conflict there wouldn't be any problems in the ME. But let at least acknowledge that it does piss a lot of people off in the region.

The opportunity may therefore emerge for a genuine attempt for the international community to be involved in the israeli/pal. conflict if the int. community is willing for it. The current situation in gaza and the WB is a disaster. The two state solution seems a mirage; a sense of hopelessness prevails. More needs to be done. Israel would not like this - the word 'internationalisation' of the conflict freaks them out. Apart from their US buddies, they don't trust the EU, the UN, and the arab world. But let's make no mistake: convergence is finished. It was always a theoretical plan that never fitted reality. An attempt to give Israel a sense of normalcy without involving the real pain needed that goes with negotiations. It was an attempt to construct an artificial separation, with a land that knows no hard borders.

The time has come for decisive international action. An international force in Lebanon followed by a sustained attempt by the int. community to bring Palesinian moderates in Abu Mazen and Israel together in bilateral negotiations. Time is not on anyone sides except the fanatics. Maybe what I am proposing is fantasy - it probably is. But sometimes, people only take action when things get worse. Without the knowledge of how bad things can get, people aren't willing to compromise. As I see it - the time for playing games is over - the conseqences of not acting is simply more anguish and unnecessary pain.


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