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Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah
By David Newell July, 27, 2006

The recent rally of attacks between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is yet another round in the last half century or so of violence and unrest between Israel and its neighbors. So who is right?... A simple question, isn't it?

Well, you can go back to the post-WWII era and say that Israel should never have been established in the Palestine area and therefore they should leave. Then again, you could go just a bit further back and say that the United States should rescind its rights to its territory and give it back to the Native American tribes. Hey, if we keep going back, Israel has a right to their current territory. The point is, even though arguments can be made along this line in relation to the current Middle East situation, such arguments are not worthwhile or practically useful. The best we can hope for is to preserve some version of the status quo and try to keep the peace. This rules out abolishing Israel, but it also leaves room for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what about now? Who should do what, given the current situation? Well, first off, Israel does have a right to defend itself. This defense, however, cannot be without bounds. On the other hand, no matter what Hezbollah's or anyone else's qualms may be, it never justifies targeting or attacking civilians. The targeting of civilian non-combatants over military targets is, in my mind, what separates the rebels, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters from simple terrorists--so no, I don't buy the clichÈ that one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

Another issue to consider is that it really does matter who started what, in the short-term. Going too far back is fruitless, just as it is with claims to territory. But, given the status quo and efforts to preserve peace again, we cannot accept initiations of violence, despite what some may say about previous engagements where someone else started something else. Again, if we go to far back, the whole world would be at war with itself.

Where does all this leave us? Well, it means that Hezbollah, if it claims to be a freedom fighting-variety organization (and not a terrorist group, which is somewhat hard to accept) can go ahead and kidnap Israeli soldiers, as long as it recognizes that Israel can go right ahead and fire back, given their right to self defense. What is not acceptable is for Hezbollah to attack civilians, as they have done, and for Israel to give a disproportionate response to the kidnappings, which they have, debatably, done.

What needs to be done then? Well, Hezbollah should release the prisoners, if they are still alive, and give up its arms and terrorist activities, as did the IRA recently. Israel should then stop its attacks on Lebanon. But, this is the real world and this probably won't happen. Left to themselves, several weeks of continued fighting will remain, and people on both sides will die and eventually when Israel has decided that Hezbollah has been sufficiently weakened, it will cease fire, unless Hezbollah continues its strikes.

I believe that what is really happening is that Hezbollah does not want to see peace between a potential Palestinian state and Israel because this would mean an implicit or explicit acceptance of the right of Israel to existence by an authoritative Palestinian body. Hezbollah creating havoc adds fuel to the fire of the Israeli political right wing and gives them (the Israeli right) the domestic support necessary to use military options against its neighbors in Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, where Hezbollah, Hamas, and other violent factions reside. Under such conditions, a Palestinian state will never rise and thus there will never be a formal recognition of Israel's right to exist by Palestine.

First of all, I agree with an international peace keeping force, if for anything, just to stop the fighting. Under such conditions, terms of peace can be laid out. Now, Hezbollah is not a government or group with international status, and they very well should not be given such status. So, they have to be dealt with vis--vis the governments of the countries where they hold power, specifically Lebanon and Syria. Mediating talks between Israel and Lebanon concerning terms of peace would be a start. Israel could promise to stop attacks and Lebanon could promise to crack down on Hezbollah. This would be a step in the right direction and would have the added benefit of adding legitimacy to the struggling Lebanese government because it would require lending outside help--the Lebanese governments cannot do this on its own--in working to make Hezbollah give up its weapons and tactics and become a political faction, which would, in turn, bolster the Lebanese governments domestic power. Furthermore, pressure should be brought to bear on Syria, which supports Hezbollah, to stop harboring and aiding terrorist activities.

This combination of efforts would leave the Israeli political right with little reason to use brute force and forego talks with the Palestinian Authority, would increase the power of Lebanon to resist influence from Hezbollah and Syria, and would decrease the status and ability of Hezbollah to act against the process of Palestinian statehood and Middle East peace.

Copyright © 2006 by David Newell

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