Photo: Ofer Amram
Giora Eiland
Photo: Ofer Amram
Border incident with Lebanon
Photo: AFP

The truth about Lebanon

Op-ed: Israel must warn that Lebanon provocations would lead to different kind of war

The grave incident on the northern border Tuesday reflects Lebanon’s reality – a reality that many observers in Washington and Paris preferred not to see. It’s important that we know what Lebanon’s global image is, compared to this reality.


The global image is as follows: There are two camps in Lebanon. The “good guys” camp includes the Christians, Sunnis, and Druze. This camp espouses peace, wants to boost Lebanese democracy, and wishes to move closer to the West. On the other end there’s the “bad guys” camp, which is based on Hezbollah and is supported by the “axis of evil” – Syria and Iran. These two camps are seemingly engaged in a struggle for hegemony in Lebanon.


Had the above description portrayed reality accurately, America’s and France’s conclusion would have been correct – the Lebanese state must be assisted politically, economically, and militarily in order to boost the “good guys” camp.


Regrettably, the reality in Lebanon is very different. The actual circumstances are as follows: There are indeed two camps in the country, yet they maintain an unwritten agreement that allows each party to utilize its relative advantage for a common goal.


And so, the “good guys” camp presents Lebanon’s beautiful face: It highlights the existence of democratic institutions, Francophone culture, tourism, and so on. At the same time, the other camp (Hezbollah) continues to maintain the (formal) authority to impose a veto on any political decision; this camp also continues to serve as the dominant military power in the country and the only one that determines where peace or war would prevail on the Israeli border.


This division of duties is very convenient for both camps and enables Lebanon to get the best of both worlds.


In the Second Lebanon War, Israel erred when it adapted its actions to a pattern that was convenient for the Lebanese: We only fought against Hezbollah. The result was, among other things, that while Haifa residents stayed in bomb shelters for weeks, Beirut residents went to the beach.


Diplomatic effort needed

The Israeli government would do well to use the latest incident in order to explain Lebanon’s realities to our global allies. Moreover, Israel must warn that should the northern provocations continue, they may lead to a third Lebanon war.


Such war would be different than the Second Lebanon War in one main aspect: It will be a war between Israel and Lebanon. The result would necessarily be great devastation in Lebanon, the destruction of its national infrastructures, and a grave blow to its military and institutions.


The next war being different than the previous one would not stem from a different diplomatic logic, but first and foremost from a military need. Should Israel limit its war to Hezbollah alone, the results would not be better than what we saw in the Second Lebanon War. We indeed improved greatly since that war, but so did Hezbollah.


We may be able to hit Hezbollah more successfully, yet it too would be able to hit Israel’s home front more effectively. The bottom line would not be encouraging. On the other hand, an inter-state confrontation would grant most advantages to Israel.


As nobody is interested in seeing Lebanon devastated – nor the Lebanese people neither Hezbollah, the West and Syria – the way to prevent the next war, or to win it should it break out, would be to use diplomatic action in order to prompt the US and France to convey the following message to Lebanon:


If you have demands of Israel (border changes, and end to overflights, etc.) we would help you on condition that you prove that you control the country and prevent provocations. If you fail to do that, and if you’re interesting in being controlled by Hezbollah and Syria, we will not help you if and when another war breaks out. Should Lebanon choose to be a satellite state of the “axis of evil” we would have no reason to prevent Israel from hurting you badly.



פרסום ראשון: 08.05.10, 11:19
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