August 17, 2006


Home Rule: The struggle between sovereignty and chaos in the Middle East (Gadi Taub, 08.17.06, New Republic)

Both Hezbollah and Hamas had much to gain from dragging Israel back into the territories from which it withdrew. Take Lebanon first. Hezbollah is a guerrilla army inside a sovereign state. When Israel was the occupier, Hezbollah guerrillas could portray themselves as freedom fighters seeking Lebanese independence. With Israel gone, they looked more like agents of foreign powers bent on undermining Lebanese independence. A stable and prosperous Lebanon--not to mention peaceful coexistence with Israel--would spell Hezbollah's doom. Nasrallah may have been surprised by the ferocity of Israel's response. But, if he is able to portray himself as a hero in the holy war against Zionism, and if he can make Lebanon seem like Vietnam (which many people believe he did), he will have bought himself years of political prestige and vitality.

Hamas is a different case. Unlike Hezbollah, Hamas now holds sovereign power and will lose it if Israel reoccupies Gaza. On the surface, it doesn't make sense that a ruling party would voluntarily risk losing power. But, in the case of Hamas, it actually does: Hamas prospered under the occupation, and its uncompromising anti-Israeli ideology thrived on despair. A sovereign Gaza threatens to force it into the pragmatic world of politics, which would compromise the very ideology that brought it into existence.

Hamas, then, has all the old reasons for preventing partition. Partition would neuter the most effective weapons in the war to destroy Israel: demography; the international isolation of Israel caused by the occupation; the unified Arab front against Zionism; and the corrosive effects of the occupation on Israel's internal unity and democratic institutions. Could it be that Hamas overheard what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis during the last election campaign--that partition is the only way to save Zionism? Did they act to subvert his plans for withdrawal?

Think of it this way: Any lasting peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict depends on the logic of sovereignty. This means stable governable states, separated by acknowledged borders. Whatever undermines this logic--terrorism, continued occupation, chaos, invasions--subverts the chances for future peace. It is in Israel's interest to support and strengthen stable sovereign governments on the other side of its borders.

If Israel were serious about subverting Hezbollah as a terrorist organization it would treat Nasrallah as a head of state and foment the sovereignty of South Lebanon.

Video provokes questions of Lebanese army (CNN, 8/17/06)

A video showing Lebanese soldiers cordially offering Israeli troops glasses of tea during the military offensive earlier this month has hit Israeli and Hezbollah airwaves.

The video, shot by Israelis on August 10, when Israeli troops "took control" of the southern Lebanese town of Marjeyoun, aired on Israel's Channel 2 on Wednesday.

Hezbollah's al-Manar TV network and pro-Hezbollah NEW TV then picked up the video and condemned the Lebanese soldiers as deserters.

Lebanese politics is about preventing the plurality from assuming their place at the table.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2006 12:50 PM

Hezbolllah had the chance to take over and run not just the south, but all of Lebanon, but chose not to. And after seeing the mess Hamas has got themselves into, they certianly are congratdulating themselves on how smart they were to not want a state of their own.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 17, 2006 1:45 PM

Sharon's genius lay in not giving the Palestinians a choice. Olmert's fatal flaw lies in not grasping that you just push more and more responsibility on them.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2006 1:54 PM

I'm on board with your "responsibility paradigm", oj, but I think the nation-state of Lebanon is by far the better level of organization. If that fails, despite herculean efforts by the Lebanese, themselves, then I'm with you. Similarly,Iraq.

Unity cannot be imposed from without. Ditto maturity.

Posted by: ghostcat at August 17, 2006 2:23 PM

There is no Lebanon and shouldn't be. It was a vile conspiracy to have Christians and Sunni dominate the Shi'a plurality, who no one felt they needed to consider because they're historically poor and oppressed.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2006 2:28 PM

Ya mean my people can get their land back from the palefaces?

Posted by: ghostcat at August 17, 2006 8:42 PM

They certainly have a moral claim to it. But we'd laugh at them. We aren't Israel.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2006 8:51 PM

The shame of it is, Israel isn't even Israel anymore.

Posted by: erp at August 18, 2006 8:29 AM