Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The End Game for Lebanon - Part I: The Shebaa Farms

George W. Bush has been struggling to sell this war as part of his War on Terror. This administration repeats itself over and over again by suggesting that Hizballah has ties to Al-Qaeda and that Hizballah could plan attacks on Americans any minute, and that to sum it all up Hizballah is a national security threat.

Now of course, no one in D.C believes that. They all know that there are no ties between Hizballah and Al-Qaeda and that Hizballah is not planning any attacks on American civilians.

The Italian FM came out yesterday and told the press that a group like Hizballah has the potential to be reduced to a poltical party only, with no military wing that is, and that confronting them should not happen with the use of force but rather through peaceful negotiations.

Well, peaceful negotiations is what we, the Lebanese, want. Here I can pose the question: What is the end game for Lebanon?

In essence, that is the question that has to be answered. Do we want a full out war with Israel? Well, of course not. If that was what we wanted the missiles would still be hitting Haifa.

Do we want a peace treaty? Well eventually we do want peace, but it is definitely too early to put this option on the table after Israel's demolition of Lebanon. According to a survey carried out by the Beirut Center for Research and Information last week, the majority of every sect in Lebanon believes it is impossible to establish peaceful relations with the State Of Israel.

The path being taken at the moment is thus, for once, an optimal one. The cease-fire must hold until all Israeli troops have left our land and all our cards must be put on the table in order for us to try to resolve this issue once and for all. If the root of our problems with Israel remain the same then the scenario of a conflict will keep on reemerging. Our current points of conflict with Israel concern the Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, the Shebaa farms which are under Israeli control, the almost daily overflights of the IAF over Lebanon and last but not least the question on what to do with the Palestinian refugees. On the other hand, the Israelis want to see Hizballah disarmed.

The Shebaa farms issue is a crucial one, but one that can be easily solved if Israel gets over itself. Everyone knows this piece of land does not belong to Israel. Furthermore, everyone knows that Israel is not just going to hand over a piece of land, one that contains precious water and parts of Israel's only ski slopes, over to Lebanon right after a war gone array for them. After all, their 2 soldiers are still in captivity.

Nobody can expect a full disarmament of Hizballah while the Shebaa farms are still under occupation. The Israelis thus should be reasonable and recognize that withdrawing from Shebaa will give Hizballah much less of a reason to carry arms and thus will strengthen the Lebanese government.

Hizballah will only be disarmed peacefully and that can only occur through long, tedious internal negotiations with the government. By withdrawing from Shebaa, Israel will have left Hizballah all bun.

The deployment of our army to the South, the recent uncovering of Hizballah weapons caches and the agreement to have 15'000 UNIFIL soldiers in our country, proves that the state of Lebanon has shown a lot of goodwill.

Israel should reward this goodwill by withdrawing from the farms. It is in both nations interest.

Lets assume the Israelis were to say the status of the Shebaa farms is not up for discussion at the moment. Then I say the Shebaa farms should be included in any deal which is made concerning the freedom of those two IDF soldiers.

We all know too well that to the Israeli government, U.N resolutions are not worth the paper on which they are written on. Thus, it is in our best interest not to release those 2 soldiers until the Shebaa issue is resolved.

The Shebaa farms can create potential for conflict for years and decades to come and now, with the attention of the international community focused on our little country, we should do everything humanly possible in order to try to solve this problem.

All that is needed, is for Syria to officially state, vis-a-vis the U.N, that Shebaa is Lebanese. For anybody who is reading about this for the first time; the U.N recognizes the Shebaa farms as occupied Syrian territory.

Thereafter the transition of Shebaa over to Lebanon can be completed. After all, the Syrians have announced on numerous occasions that the farms are indeed Lebanese.

So before we once again call on Israel to withdraw from Shebaa, let us deal with the Syrians first. The Secretary General of the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council, Mr. Nasri Khoury, should ask the Syrians once and for all to take an official position regarding the ownership of the Shebaa farms.

We should let the Syrians realize that Lebanon is not their play toy anymore. The Shebaa farms is the last straw with which Syria can put pressure on Israel through Hizballah and this life line should be cut immediately.

21 comments:

  1. Teapot7:31 PM

    1. "a piece of land, one that contains precious water and parts of Israel's only ski slopes, over to Lebanon"
    - You seem to be confusing the Golan with Sheba.

    2. "it is in our best interest not to release those 2 soldiers until the Shebaa issue is resolved"
    - It is in Israel's best interest not to end the air and sea siege over Lebanon until the 2 soldiers issue is resolved.

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  2. Anonymous7:31 PM

    good post :)

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  3. Teapot...Shebaa is in essence geographically part of the Golan Heights. And the use of force was my second option and surprise, surprise your first.
    I guess that is how how we differ. Read the post again before you comment next time.

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  4. Ze Carioca8:17 PM

    Wissam,
    Your comments are very interesting. However, bear in mind that: Unless Syria officially states it, Sheba'a are Syrian Territory. This is confirmed by the UN and are covered by UN 242. If Syria accepts to contif that they are Lebanese, then they would fall under UN 425 and I am sure Israel would hand them over to Lebanon. So your problem is really with SYRIA
    As regards the 2 kidnapped soldiers. may I remind you that they are not in the hand of the State of Lebanon, or in the hand of the Lebanese Red Cross or in the hands of the Armay. They are in the hand of a Militia. NO ONE IN LEBANON, NOT EVEN THE GOVERNMENT seems to have any authority over it. So how do you want to negotiate their fate? Who will negotiate? What are Hezbollah's interests versus Lebanon's??? Think about it

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  5. Anonymous8:19 PM

    I must disagree with this post. The ceasefire requires armed militias, including Hezbollah to disarm. Do it for face more war. Israel could care less either way - its not like Hezbollah or Lebanon can do anything else except a peace treaty with Israel. Why is it too early? Peace treaties have nothing to do with negotiating land. Have fun with believing Hezbollah is even going to be part of the political process. They are too extreme for a democratic process. Rights of the minoroty have to be respected, and Hezbollah's ideals and values do not permit this (they believe Jews - not Israel are lesser beings than they are)

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  6. Teapot8:22 PM

    Let me assure u that after Israel withdraws from Sheba, Nasrallah will find a new excuse. How long did it take for him after Israel left Lebanon in 2000 to come up with that excuse? Or did he prepare it in advance?
    I predict he already has a new excuse. Maybe the village Rajar will serve as the excuse for the next round?

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  7. Ze Carioca9:18 PM

    The only solution is for the Lebanese people to stand up, just like they did on the 14th of March and DEMAND that Hizbollah be disarmed. Otherwise, Lebanon is doomed.....Stop talking and appeasing... it does not lead anywhere...

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  8. I answer to teapot in the first section and ze carioca in the last section of this reply.

    Teapot: If you closely would follow Lebanese politics, (which I assume you do not) then you would understand that after the Shebaa issue is off the table, Hizballah would really be pressured into disarming. That would be the point of no return, as far as their disarmament goes.
    Furthermore, the point is that Shebaa is not an excuse for many Lebanese people. There are Lebanese farmers with deeds to their lands in Shebaa, lands on which the Israelis have hired Ethiopian Jews to work the land and grow produce.
    Anyways, however way Israelis twist it, the Shebaa issue is crucial to peace.

    Ze Carioca, if read the article in its entirety you would have realized that I surely addressed the Syrian issue regarding Shebaa.
    Furthermore, The section where I suggest we keep the hostages until Shebaa is returned is rather impracticable, of course. I make mention of this is in order to accentuate the question whether to why we, the Lebanese, should play fair if the Israelis don't? After all, it is Israel which on one hand claims to want to have peace with us and is only out to seek to destroy Hizballah but then on the other hand refuses to give us back Shebaa which would really make our government's job oftackling the Hizballah issue easier.
    After all Hizballah is part of the government, a scenario could exist where the fate of the prisoners can be determined by the state. It is not logical to assume that Hizballah would handover their weapons to us but not the two prisoners of war. You cannot say that it is realistic to have Hizballah disarmed by the state, but unrealistic to have the 2 prisonsers to be transferred to the custody of the state.

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  9. Teapot9:22 AM

    Wissam,
    1. It took me awhile to figure out why u wrote "Israelis have hired Ethiopian Jews to work the land".
    And then I realized that the Sheba Farms are named after the ancient place Shiba in Africa (Queen of Shiba). Therefor in the Arab mind Israelis would put Africans on that land. As far as I know there are no fields there, and Ethiopian Jews don't work in agriculture.
    Maybe someone saw a Fijian soldier next to the border.

    2. To tie the return of the soldiers to the land issue would mean open season on Israelis. Israel cannot allow for a "citizens for land" deal.

    3. I find it hard to believe that Syria would give up land to Lebanon (the Sheba Farms).
    And so far they have not signed it over to Lebanon.

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  10. Israel should reward this goodwill by withdrawing from the farms. It is in both nations interest.

    What could Lebanon do to show its goodwill? I note that UNSC 1701 calls for the UNCONDITIONAL release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, yet that hasn't happened yet.

    This is beyond stupid. In all of Israel's wars with Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, prisoners were released per agreement. Lebanon now shows less goodwill than the Syrians, Egyptians, and Jordanians! Why should ANYONE listen to your call for the Israel to show goodwill to Lebanon? Indeed, why should anyone listen to your counsel at all?

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  11. Ze Carioca11:09 PM

    Solomon2, you are UNFOTUNATELY right. We are doing everything contrary to common sense... And yet we want the world to (please) help us.....

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  12. Nassri Khoury should be put in prison until Syria opens an embassy in Beirut. In the meanwhile, all I can say is that the story of the Shebaa farms did not surface until the year 2000. All we know is that the syrian regime will not recognize it's lebanese and help Lebanon claim it under various UNSC resolutions. So the thing ends up looking that Lebanese soil is not fully liberated and that hassoun has a lebanese excuse to carry weapons.

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  13. I read this post and the idea of making shebaa farms a condition for release of the two soldiers is amazing. Eigher you indeed believe that nasrallah decimated the IDF or you are deliberately playing with fire.

    Israeli public is turning to the right. Olmert is done. People are absolutely dissatisfied with the way this military campaign was carried out and that ceasefire came without releasing the soldiers. People who may come instead of Olmert and Peretz like Lieberman are hardcore right wingers who may even start looking on purpose to ignite another round.

    I dont know about Nasrallah but your economy won t survive another round. Thats sure

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  14. Anonymous3:59 AM

    Debate: Who is hassoun?

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  15. Nobody said:

    "Israeli public is turning to the right"

    So let me understand something. You consider that Israelis by voting for Kadima (the result of the break up of the Likud party, Kadima which was supposed to be lead by peace loving Sharon)showed a leaning towards the left ? Kadima is a "centrist" party ? When did Israelis go with the left wing ? Unless you consider the Labor party to be left wing (which is completely laughable). Well if your definition of a left wing party is one which allows phosphoric bombs to be used instead of cluster bombs, then yeah Labor are extreme lefties, they're even hippies !

    Nobody said: "your economy won t survive another round. Thats sure "

    As for your friendly concern (or is it friendly advice ?) regarding the Lebanese economy: Thanks. But again let me understand something, did you just indirectly (perhaps subconsciously) acknowledge that the IDF targets the "economy" and thus civilian infrastructure and not terrorists ? Blasphemous indeed !

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  16. Anonymous, by Hassoun I mean Hassan Nasrallah...

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  17. This is my final comment on my thoughts concerning this post. All right wing Israel supporters who read the post directly jumped to the conclusion that a further conflict is what we want.
    I therefore repeat:

    Hizballah's military wing cannot survive another "excuse".
    If you closely would follow Lebanese politics, (which I assume you do not) then you would understand that after the Shebaa issue is off the table, Hizballah would really be pressured into disarming. That would be the point of no return, as far as their disarmament goes.
    The Shebaa farms issue has to be resolved. The first option I put forward would be the one where a show of goodwill from both sides will lead to this withdrawal.
    The second option, that if the Israelis are stubborn (once again) then maybe, they really don't want their soldiers. Maybe Hizballah was right in saying that force is the the only language that the Israelis understand. After all, the Israelis are pressuring us by keeping up their ridiculous blockade of Lebanon.
    I call on Israel to show some basic understanding of Lebanese politics, not to play the role of the bully anymore and help us to disarm Hizballah by returning Shebaa.

    The destruction of our country, the collection of arms in the South by the army and deployment of a massive UNIFIL force in the South should not go unrewarded.
    This should warrant a return of Shebaa to Lebanese hands.
    Its true that we have to resolve this with the Syrians first and that is what Lebanon will also have to do.

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  18. Teapot11:58 AM

    Wissam,
    I read your posts to understand what Lebanese think. I add my comments as an outsider.

    The "ridiculous blockade" should continue until Israel is "rewarded" the soldiers (as it states in 1701).

    No country should get "rewards" for starting a war. It would simply encourage the terror organisation and the states that sponsor them.

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  19. ib said:

    As for your friendly concern (or is it friendly advice ?) regarding the Lebanese economy: Thanks. But again let me understand something, did you just indirectly (perhaps subconsciously) acknowledge that the IDF targets the "economy" and thus civilian infrastructure and not terrorists ?

    ------------

    i am not an IDF general but yes... i think that the IDF obviosuly target economy and infrastructure installations as by the way any army does when it fights its wars if its professional enough to understand that war is just an extention of political and other issues .

    Nasrallah by the way sees it exactly the same way and 40000 katyushas he shot during the last war were accurate just enough to pose a threat for civilian centers and nothing more.

    I would disagree with the claim that IDF deliberately targets civilians and would claim that IDF actually tries to minimize civilian casualties. But i would agree that in some situations IDF considers destroying economic infrastructure as part of the strategy to overwhelm the enemy.

    As to the blasphemous, terrorists and similar stuff i should say taht i am not interested in propaganda, nor am i claiming to be a moral authority for the whole world , neigher i think that Israel's role in the region should be in providing charity services to its arab neighbors. But you would have plenty of people here interested in having this kind of self righteous debates, so i dont worry that you ll be bored on this thread.

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  20. Nobody,

    Let me assure you that I'm not interested in self righteous debates at all. And I would like to add something else, targeting civilians is wrong. I did not specify from where those civilians should be for it to be wrong. More clearly, the targeting of Israeli civlians by Hizballah is also wrong and disgusting. Just wanted to make that clear.

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