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August, 2006


Hezbollah Confronts Israel
By Dan Lieberman

Editor: Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter.
It's not often that one antagonist helps the other antagonist to accomplish its objective. Nevertheless, Hezbollah stumbled into giving Israel an excuse for accomplishing a long sought objective - the destruction of Lebanon. Hezbollah motivated the nefarious task with an incoherent strategy. Israel intends to accomplish the task by a well-calculated strategy; control a nation without occupation by destroying it, which is a sinister premonition to the future of the Middle East.
Usually before a nation confronts an adversary, it measures the adversary's capability, prepares itself to block the anticipated response and then delivers blows that overcome the adversary. Not so, with Hezbollah. In the early days of the new conflict, Hezbollah mainly launched rockets into Israel's heartland that provoked fear and did limited damage. Regardless of Hezbollah's future actions, in the most important days of the conflict, its militia did not turn sufficient weapons on Israeli ships off the coast, on Israeli artillery close to the border, on Israeli tanks crossing the border, and on Israeli airplanes whose missiles destroyed everything in their vision. Hezbollah did not prevent Israel from doing what it wanted, when it wanted and where it wanted. It's still a mystery what Hezbollah expected to gain from its incursion across the Israeli border, where it abducted two Israeli soldiers while firing two rockets close to Shlomi, an Israeli town about 15 km east of the Mediterranean coast. Another mystery is why Hezbollah sent rockets to Arab Nazareth that killed two Arab children.

Shibley Telhami, professor for Peace and Development at University of Maryland, hypothesized at a US Institute of Peace initiative that Hezbollah simply miscalculated Israel's response; the Lebanese militia expected Israel to negotiate and trade prisoners. Political pundits claim that Hezbollah had planned the action for six months. The first concept is easily contradicted - Israel had already shown in Gaza that it would use the abduction of one soldier as an excuse to react ferociously - why would it act differently to the abduction of two soldiers? It's more likely that Hezbollah had the kidnappings on its action list for a long time and determined July 11 was an opportune moment to alleviate Israeli pressure on the Palestinians in Gaza and focus the world on Israel's aggressive actions in the Middle East.

As'ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, who recently returned from Lebanon, agreed with the latter interpretation of Hezbollah's actions. In an interview with Firas Al Atraqchi, Aljazeera, Tuesday, 18 July 2006, he stated: "I think that Hezbollah started by wanting to achieve a prisoner exchange with Israel, and probably to ease the pressures on Palestine." Hezbollah failed in accomplishing the latter; on the contrary its actions changed the focus of the attacks in Gaza to the attacks in Lebanon, and allowed Israel to continue its destruction of Gaza with less public view. How many Middle East observers noticed that on July 18, Israeli forces entered Gaza city, far from its border guards, and "eliminated" ten Palestinian "militants."

Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, announced that Hezbollah has many surprises. The surprise is that Hezbollah has not exhibited any surprises. Its inventory of thousands of rockets was well known. Hezbollah's failure to properly engage Israel is baffling. Nasrallah appealed to the Moslem world and seemed to trust that his actions will unite the Arab world to take decisive actions against Israel. Just the opposite has happened. Nasrallah has divided the Arab world; separated governments critical of Hezbollah's action from governments amenable to Hezbollah and all the governments from an Arab populace who seem to generally favor Hezbollah's actions. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, where radical Muslim forces exist, don't favor a Hezbollah victory that will invigorate their anti-government insurgents.

Hezbollah acted rashly but, according to its sympathizers, not without reason. As'ad AbuKhalil in the interview (ibid) clarified the reasons for Hezbollah's actions:

This particular conflict, and Israel's act of aggression on Lebanon, did not take place in a vacuum, and Israel did not act in some spontaneous fashion. Hezbollah did not surprise Israel with the capture of the two Israeli occupation soldiers. Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah has repeatedly warned that if Israel does not release its Lebanese prisoners, he will be compelled to take Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips.

And Israel has not been sitting idly by since its partial withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000. It has not only continued to occupy parts of South Lebanon, but also has been violating Lebanese sovereignty, by air, sea, and land. Israel has also been kidnapping innocent Lebanese citizens: fishermen and shepherds. And one fisherman from Tyre - my hometown - is still missing, and at least one shepherd was killed last year. Furthermore, Israel has adamantly refused to give to Lebanon a map of the more than 400,000 land mines that it left behind in South Lebanon, and which continue to kill Lebanese children in the region.

Hezbollah is responsible for violating Israel territory and abducting two of Israel's soldiers. Israel is responsible for the escalation of the crisis and terrible loss of lives. Regardless of Israel's horrific response, Hezbollah's border action has destabilized, if not destroyed, Lebanon. To save its reputation, Hezbollah has allowed Lebanese to be killed. It has demonstrated its strength did not match its rhetoric, once again exposed the weakness and lack of solidarity of the Arab world and revealed the inability of international institutions to respond to the brutality of Israel's military.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, a genuine hero to the Arab street and a figure compared to the legendary Che Guevarra, has fallen victim to his publicity and overstepped himself. His challenge to Israel to widen the conflict reminded the world of another leader's brash attitude; President George W; Bush's statement referencing the insurgents in Iraq: "Bring 'em on." Nasrallah has met his "Bolivia," and fallen fast. Israel intends to proceed until Hezbollah is destroyed and neither Hezbollah leadership nor anyone else seems prepared to prevent that occurrence.

Hezbollah's biggest failure is that it has given Israel an opportunity to prove it can succeed in its new design for subduing the Middle East. Israel's new design emerges from the US failure to "bring democracy to the Middle East."

Israel's realist government must have noticed what other observers have published: The worst method for bringing democracy to the Middle East is to have a democratic election.

The democratic election in Iraq brought militias to parliament where they confused the legislative process and made sure nothing happens, especially against them. The democratic election in Palestine brought Hamas to victory and Israel used the election to separate itself from any peace initiative and frighten the world. The democratic election in Lebanon brought Hezbollah into the Lebanese parliament where it made sure the government would not implement UN resolutions that called for Hezbollah's disarmament.

Iraq, the greatest antagonist to Israel has been destroyed; an example to Israel of how it can resolve an adversarial situation without using its military. Now, in responses to capture of its soldiers, first in Gaza, and then in Lebanon, Israel established a pattern that exposed its latest strategy - recognition that it doesn't have the resources to control by occupation it will use brutal missile power to destroy adversary infrastructures and create mayhem to reduce their populations to barren lives. Syria and Iran are obviously next on the total destruction list. It's also possible that Israel's unhampered success in its operations will whet its appetite for repeat performances to newer audiences every few years.

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