Expecting the unexpected in Lebanon—or should we say—the very expected?
By Forward Magazine
The unexpected was for this round of battle on the Lebanese-Israeli border to be between the IDF and the Lebanese Army—and not Hizbullah. The expected was for Israel to strike—four days after the Syrian-Saudi Summit in Beirut—in order to drown all Arab initiatives aimed at protecting Lebanon from slipping into chaos. Israel is setting the stage for a new war with Lebanon—clearly from the blatant violation of UNSCR 1701 and its invasion of Lebanese territory on August 2.
Earlier today, a patrol from the IDF crossed the border into Lebanon and was confronted by the Lebanese Army at the Odeissi village in the South. UNIFEL tried to halt the advancement, with little luck, leading to the death of 3 Lebanese soldiers, the wounding of 4, and according to Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV, the killing of a “senior Israeli officer.” The Lebanese Army, with full support of President Michel Suleiman and Army Commander Jean Kahwaji, has stressed self-defense, blaming the IDF for outbreak of hostilities and placing full support behind the Lebanese Army. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri called on the Lebanese government to take the matter to the Security Council, words echoed from the other side by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that the Lebanese Army had violated UNSCR 1701. All parties are currently waiting for a speech by Hasan Nasrallah, expected at 8:30 Beirut time, to lay out the vision for what will happen in the hours ahead.
For four years, all eyes have been on Lebanon, predicting a new war between the IDF and Hizbullah. All objectives set forth by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were not met: the two Israeli soldiers were not released and far from being annihilated, Hizbullah emerged from that battle, stronger than ever before, morally, politically, and militarily. Several consecutive senior Israeli military officials were forced to resign as a result of that war, including the Chief-of-Staff.
It was reasoned for long that the US wanted that war more so than Israel. The Bush White House wanted to prevent Hizbullah-like groups from emerging in failed states throughout the world; in Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq. The Pentagon wanted the war to test the pulse of Iran’s military abilities prior to waging war against Tehran. The State Department wanted the war because it had adopted the pro-Western cabinet of then-Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora, which had taken a strong Hizbullah position.
Time and again, that war did not happen. Primarily this was because nobody in Lebanon wanted a new round of battle—certainly not Hizbullah. Additionally Israel was not going to venture into another war, where results were not 100% guaranteed against Hizbullah. Israel was not going to go into another war—and not win. In 1973, Golda Meir resigned from her post as Israeli Prime Minister not because Israel lost the war against Egypt and Syria. She resigned because Israel did not win.
For months now, however, the Israelis have been setting the stage for a new war in the Middle East. It started with a November 2009 accusation that Iranian arms were discovered on a German ship headed for Hizbullah. Then came a fabricated story in mid-April 2010, claiming that Hizbullah was receiving advanced Scud missiles from Syria. More recently Israeli Army Commander Gaby Ashkenazi further provoked the Lebanese fighters by claiming that an earthquake was in store for them next September, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) names Hizbullah officials in the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Harriri. Last Thursday, Israeli TV came out with a blatant statement, naming a senior Hizbullah commander in the Harriri Affair. Hizbullah—which has repeatedly said that it does not want war but would be ready for it—refuses all blame for Harriri’s blood, claiming that the STL is an “Israeli project” aimed at targeting the Lebanese resistance. Hizbullah would continue to refuse the STL, its leaders stressed, so long as the international probe refuses to even consider Israeli involvement in the Harriri murder. What Israel could not achieve through bullets and missiles, Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah was saying, it would try to attain through the STL.
What is happening today brings back strong memories of the war of 2006—an Israeli army desperate to strike back at Lebanon and Hizbullah for having enforced the worse defeat on the Jewish State’s history since its creation in 1948.
President Bashar al-Assad got on the phone with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, expressing his country’s full support for the Lebanese in the hostilities that broke out on the border with Israel.
Echoing the Syrian leader’s words were the people of Syria and the Arab World, who have old and grey watching Israel kill whatever chances of peace and stability emerge in the Middle East.