By Elias Aoun*
The all-out israely "open war" against Lebanon is none other than a final burial ceremony to the U.S. President's "Greater Middle East Initiative" and his promise of "a new era for the region". No doubt, a new era has ushered in, but nowhere does it resemble the one promoted and promised.
Was the Initiative a deception or merely a "good" plan went astray? Different people will certainly have different viewpoints. Some may consider events in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon as a reflection of the Initiative's true intent. Instead of being buried with violence, it is actually being born. They vouch that the Greater Initiative is non-other than the Greater Chaos.
The U.S. President always claimed that his Administration will pursue all efforts "until the Lebanese people achieve total independence." Under the first major threat to that independence, the Administration would not even press Israel on a cease-fire.
The President claims that Israel "has the right to defend itself" - as if no one else has that same right, or as if anyone other than Israel has only the right to be killed.
Some claim that Israel's military campaign is aimed at targeting Hizbullah's "terrorism." However, the vast majority of areas targeted by Israel have no Hizbullah military presence. Some attacked towns do not even have Hizbullah party members.
The truth is that Israel is incapable of conducting an "honorable" fight with Hizbullah: man-to-man, soldier-to-soldier. Their call to place the Lebanese Army on the Lebanon-Israel border is aimed at both causing a rift between the government and the resistance, thus weakening the force against them and enhancing their ability to re-invade the country, despite their claim about their intent not to do so.
Unable to launch an effective ground attack, they instead lobby their missiles from the air and the sea against roads, bridges, civilians, and public institutions. They issue warning to "evacuate" to dismember the country one corner, one town, and one city at a time. Israel's war is a war for terrorism, not against it.
Israel's plan goes beyond the return of its soldiers, the dismantling of Hizbullah, and achieving the deployment of the Lebanese Army on the Lebanon-Israel border. The aim is to control Lebanon's water resources, and its economic and political decision making processes through the dismemberment of its institutions, political assassinations, and maintaining an equal balance of two major competing and un-reconcilable political forces to deepen the divisions and facilitate Israel's "progress" within the country.
Bridges and roads are symbols for linking various towns and villages, north with south, east with west. Their destruction is symbolic to the intent of "de-linking" various parts of the country from one another. In short, the intent is to prevent the rise of a viable Lebanese state and to defeat the promise of the "Cedar's Revolution."
Lebanese unity is the best way to overcome the difficulties facing the country regardless of political differences. All Lebanon - its resistance, its army, its people - is a target. Hizbullah is merely the first target. But, once again, Israel's military will be defeated by the will of the Lebanese.
For now, what are the demands?
Pro-Israeli western politicians have claimed that Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers was a provocation and is to blame for the current situation. Regardless of what one thinks of the abduction, it is not the first and only event in history where a soldier is held captive by his enemies. The kidnapping by itself does not justify Israel's barbarism against civilian targets.
There are Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. If Israel has the right to imprison Lebanese for whatever offense against Israel, then would Israel hand-over Israeli citizens who have committed the same offense against Lebanon? Those who demand the release of captured Israeli soldiers must also demand the release of jailed Lebanese.
Some claim that Hizbullah should be removed to a certain distance from the Lebanese-Israeli border. Why then should not the Israeli military be removed the same equal distance within Israel and away from the border?
Some claim that UN Resolution 1559 must be implemented as a step toward resolving the crisis. Those making such a claim must begin by implementing the first provision of said resolution which calls for the "strict respect" to Lebanese sovereignty. They should present a formula on how Israel will "strictly respect" Lebanon and halt the repeated violations of its sovereignty. After all, it was Israel that initiated the "open war". The Lebanese must seek first to implement that which is of higher priority and preserves the country. All sides want a secure nation. Then, let them begin securing it from Israeli threats.
In addition to seeking humanitarian relief, an end to
Israeli aggression, and an exchange of prisoners, other demands for
Lebanon must include:
(1) Israeli withdrawals from Shebaa Farms,
(2) Israeli compensation for the destruction caused - Israel should not ever be allowed to destroy Lebanon at will, and then simply walk away,
(3) an Arab-financed adequate air defense system (Everyone knows of this weakness in Lebanon's defense, why it is not being remedied?),
(4) a widening of Lebanon's diplomatic corps, or the private financing of a nationalist Lebanese lobby in major capitals to advocate Lebanese interests and defend Lebanese causes, especially in a crisis similar to what Lebanon is witnessing.
If a cease fire is not achieved, Hizbullah may consider invading and liberating Shebaa Farms. By doing so, it would be an attempt to divert Israel away from residential areas and limit the zone of fighting to the Farms. It remains possible, of course, that Israel will continue to bombard everywhere.
Lebanon today is paying the price of a failed diplomatic process, or a diplomacy that is not allowed to succeed until Israel does "what it has to do." However, the delay, the concept of "leaving matters unresolved", will ultimately undermine Israel more than those it hopes to undermine with such a strategy.
* An American Lebanese Lawyer.
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