Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ignoring realities

Ignoring realities
— a dangerous game

"Bush Sees a Chance for Change to Sweep Mideast" — this was the headline in a New York Times report on Thursday's meeting between US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
On the face of it, it would imply that the US president was seeing the latest crises in Palestine and Lebanon as an opportunity to take the Arab-Israeli conflict by the horns with a firm commitment to finding an end to the nearly six-decades-old problem.That is part of what real "change" means in the Middle East.
However, it does not look that way in the American administration's interpretation of the situation in the Middle East. Instead of injecting new life into the overall effort for just, durable and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, Washington is following a piecemeal approach to the overall problem. Destroying Hizbollah as an effective group with military capabilities to challenge Israel and pose a potential threat to US interests in a US-Iran confrontation is Washington's main objective today.
The Palestinian Hamas group, which won fair and free elections and won power in Palestine, is also included in the agenda along with all other likeminded groups.
Once Israel feels satisifed that Arab resistance has been "weakened enough" for it to push through its unilateral agenda, then it would move, with support from the US, towards creating further fait accomplis on the ground that it would see as strengthening its hand in any further dealings with the Palestinians, the Lebanese and the Syrians. This is indeed the masterplan, but it overlooks or seeks to circumvent the realities on the ground which dictate that Israel's unilateralism would not work.
It is transparent that Washington's current effort is aimed at devising a new UN Security Council resolution that would focus only on Hizbollah and the group's armed status and dictate terms tailored to suit Israel's interests. That in itself is one of the gravest mistakes that Washington is making.
Hizbollah and all other "terrorist, militant, extremist" groups in the Middle East came to life as the direct result of Israel's occupation of Arab territories that started with the Jewish state's grabbing of major chunks of land that was set aside for a Palestinian state under the 1948 Partition Plan and continued with the subsequent wars in the region (An interesting but little noticed news item in the Israeli media has said that the Israeli army is now in control of Israel' ts main sources of water, the Wazani springs in the divided Ghajar village near the border, and is unlikely to let go of it. Israel's capture of the spring should be seen against its Defence Minister Amir Peretz’s statement his country would retain control of a security belt in southern Lebanon until a multinational force takes over).
Today, "eliminating" Arab and Palestinian resistance groups would serve only short-term goals. Those groups would spring up in the medium term and pose far more serious threats to US interests than today, and it really surprising that Washington does not seem to take this reality into consideration.
Bush and his administration aides repeatly affirm that Hizbollah is the "root cause" of the problem in Lebanon — likewise Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine — but such affirmations do not make it a reality. The root cause for the problem, whether in Palestine or Lebanon, is Israel's occupation of Arab territories and its drive to legitimise its actions. The sooner the US reflects this truth in its actions, the better the prospects for "real change" in the Middle East.