Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Not an end in itself

Aug.13, 2006

ISRAEL has accepted UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and agreed to silence its guns this morning. Hopefully it would keep its word, and there would some respite for the beleagured people of Lebanon.
Surely, the Israeli acceptance of Resolution 1701 stemmed from a realisation that, as its foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, affirmed in public, no army could have defeated Hizbollah. It naturally follows then that Israel would have to negotiate, whether with Hizbollah (which is unlikely) or with the Lebanese government for the release of two of its soldiers taken captive by Hizbollah on July 12.
One only wonders why such wisdom did not dawn on the Israeli leadership when the crisis erupted and why it took more than a month of war that killed more than 1,200, maimed thousands, displaced tens of thousands and destroyed billions of dollars of worth of property and infrastructure for them to realise the realities on the ground.
Well, the Israeli leadership was riding on the Jewish state's self-assumed aura of invincibility and they thought they could crush Hizbollah. Not only did Israel have to admit after 32 days that it could not defeat Hizbollah but also acknowledge that it would have to engage in negotiations to secure the release of the captive soldiers.
Hizbollah also played its military cards right on the political front by showing that it was ready to accept a ceasefire. It has to be remembered that Hizbollah had rejected earlier, informal calls for a truce and dared Israel to unleash whatever weapons it has against Lebanon. Obviously, Hizbollah wanted to tell Israel and the rest of the world to know that it could withstand the Israeli assault and would not plead for a way out through truce. And, on the contrary, as the group proved, it is capable of fighting Israel on its own terms without having weapons anywhere near the sophisticated and advanced arsenal in Israel's possession.
The Israeli assault on Lebanon and the outcome after 32 days have brought some fundamental changes to the situation. The world saw that the Israeli flank is vulnerable in a guerrilla war. It is no longer relevant that it had military commanders who used to thump their chest about their abilities to fight Arab armies. That is not to deny that Israel has in its possession enough military power to blow up the entire Middle East to smithereens, but that capability did not come to its rescue against Hizbollah, once described as a ragtag militia.
Adding insult to injury to the Israeli political and military leadership is the certainty that the heads of some of them would roll as a result of the Lebanon debacle. Rumblings have already started, and it was no coincidence that Livni admitted in the cabinet that the mighty Israeli army could not defeat Hizbollah. What she left unsaid was that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his close aides should have realised it at the very outset of the crisis.
In the meantime, the Arabs are heaving a sigh of relief that there is some hope for an end to Lebanon's suffering and surely they could not conceal a broad grin and wink that Israel was forced to learn a lesson.
At the same time, the ceasefire in Lebanon is not an end in itself. It does not address the core conflict, and it means that anything could break out at any time in Lebanon and Palestine notwithstanding whatever appears on the surface.