Saturday, July 15, 2006

Reckless Hezbollah faces ruthless Israel

Reckless Hezbollah Faces Ruthless Israel

Ghassan Rubeiz, July 15, 2006 (unpublished)

The July 12 border incursion of Hezbollah which resulted in the death of eight and abduction of two Israeli soldiers has precipitated a new Arab Israeli war.

If Lebanon can not protect its borders it is asking for trouble. A state that euphemistically considers an over militarized and unruly militia a “resistance movement” should expect instability. Pity a nation that goes into a massive debt to rebuild its economy and then opens itself to slaughter by an unfriendly neighbor. The predisposing cause for Hezbollah’s unruliness is the disunity in Lebanese society.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah acts as a “state within a state”. This rebellious movement is also a regional revolutionary movement. Its ideology is a sort of an Islamic land liberation theology.
Hezbollah’s attack on Israel was reckless and will not serve the interest of Lebanon or the region.

Similarly, the response of Israel to an unruly militant group that the Lebanese weak state can not control is disproportionate and displaced. It is easy for Israel to vent its feelings by bombing innocent Lebanese civilians and national infrastructure such us roads, bridges, fuel resources, ports and airports. This displaced emotional Israeli response will weaken the Lebanese state and indirectly strengthen Hezbollah.
There are other ways for Israel to send punitive messages of firmness and resilience to deal with Hezbollah. If Israel does not wish to negotiate exchange of Arab prisoners with Hezbollah and Hamas, it should deal with Syria and Iran directly; this is where the crucial support for two militias comes from.

After the civil war ended in 1990, Hezbollah's armed resistance drove Israel out of Lebanon and gained much popularity within the country and the region. Hezbollah suddenly turned into a regional power building links with Hamas and acting as power partners for Syria and Iran. Hezbollah’s leader sounds like Abdel Nasser (former popular president of Egypt in the sixties) in his rhetoric to reform the entire region.

The Hezbollah phenomenon is partially a result of marginalization of the Shiite community in Lebanese society. The Shiite community is about 40% of the population but it is allotted only 20% of electoral representation. In the current government, Hezbollah has two cabinet ministers and thirteen parliament members. This party's militia should integrate into the army in order to render to the Lebanese government the sole authority of defense of Lebanese territory. Hezbollah's critics in Lebanon and outside, point to the generous financial assistance that it receives from Iran and the formidable political support it receives from Syria. In a sense, Hezbollah's total loyalty to the Lebanese state can be challenged.

Shiites must be given the chance to offer a candidate for the presidency of Lebanon on a rotational basis. Currently, the President has to be a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunnite and the Speaker of the House a Shiite. Rotation of Leadership among the religious communities is symbolically a uniting factor and a second best to secularization. The latter is too premature, given the hyper-religious culture of the Middle East.
Lebanon needs and deserves international support. This country is unlikely to reform on its own, given its neighbors' habitual interference. Lebanese society is very creative culturally and economically, but it is infested with political corruption. Lebanon has a thriving eight million international Diaspora whose role in domestic Lebanese politics is too weak. The Lebanese abroad do not invest seriously in their country of origin because they do not trust its leaders and the political sharing formula.
Lebanese history has shown that reform has always been induced by improved regional and international political climate. As long as Palestine is exploding, Syria and Iran are in confrontation with the US and Israel, Lebanon will remain politically very vulnerable.
In summary, the current crisis that Hezbollah has precipitated can only be solved if the Lebanese internally can face the challenge of reconfiguring their governance power-sharing formula, the Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli peace process is urgently and wholeheartedly reactivated and when the crisis between Iran and the US is resolved. Unfortunately, this crisis will take weeks and perhaps months, or even years, to resolve.

The author is a Florida-based Lebanese American.

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