Elections, Lebanon, March 14

March 14 Comes Undone

kamaljumblatt2It’s the end of an era. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I can’t quite recall who made this point a few months ago, but it seems certain that the era of high-stakes, zero-sum politics is over, having been replaced by the mundane triangulations of consociational compromise. Or something like that.

In other words, Lebanon has finally shaken loose its star-crossed two-party experiment and settled back into a more familiar arrangement of transient and politically expedient alliances unencumbered by rhetoric or ideology.

March 14 has kicked the bucket, and March 8 will inevitably follow, given that its centripetal force essentially amounted to little else beyond opposition to March 14. For all of Jumblatt’s promises that he will not abandon Saad Hariri, can anyone really deny that the political landscape that has existed for the past four years has finally been dynamited?

After all, with the departure of Jumblatt and his 11-MP “Democratic Gathering Bloc”, March 14 is left with 60 seats in the 128-seat parliament, 5 seats short of a majority. If anyone else drops out (Michel el-Murr comes to mind) the number will fall even lower. In order to hold on to his bid for the premiership, Saad Hariri and his coalition are going to have to make some very deep concessions to the opposition, via the intercession of Walid Bek.

jumblatt-exitBut wait! Those who are calling Jumblatt’s little surprise a “defection” do not appreciate the genius of his move. A defection would require him joining the opposition, at which point the tables would be turned, and March 8 would be handed a parliamentary majority. This is not Jumblatt’s style. By setting off on his own (and perhaps courting other like-minded opportunists… I mean, independents)  he will build a bloc that both sides — March 14 and March 8, or whatever is left of them — will need to court in order to govern effectively.

Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem has said that the opposition is not going to try any eleventh-hour monkey business vis-a-vis the cabinet formation. Once Hariri gets back from his trip to EuroDisney or wherever he is, a 15-10-5 cabinet will probably be formed in line with the consultations that have taken place over the past two months (yes, it’s been two months), and Hariri will probably get to follow his father’s footsteps to the Grand Serail.

But I won’t be surprised to see a new government in a lot sooner than four years.
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Discussion

63 thoughts on “March 14 Comes Undone

  1. Should I boycott Kefraya goods? http://www.slate.com/id/2224667
    Your thoughts?

    Posted by SL | August 8, 2009, 3:08 am
  2. “a 15-10-5 cabinet will probably be formed in line with the consultations that have taken place over the past two months”

    Practically, it will be a 12-10-5-3 cabinet; indeed a very smart move on behalf of MP Jumblat.

    “But I won’t be surprised to see a new government in a lot sooner than four years.”

    This is highly likely in a couple of scenarios:

    1. Should some of the unelected MP cases under revision by the constitutional council lead to repeat elections in select districts and the outcomes turn out differently.

    2. Should MP Hariri leave to “EuroDisney or wherever” every time he’s faced with a dialemma in governance.

    Regards.

    Posted by PN | August 8, 2009, 3:09 am
  3. Isn’t it 12 M.P.s (not eleven) in Democratic Gathering?
    (Jumblatt;al-Aridi;Chehab;Hamadeh;AbuFaour; al-Saad;Helou;Elie Aoun;Touhmeh;A.Saad; Mohammed al-Hajjar and Alaeddine Terro)?

    Opportunistic? – Every party and bloc looks for every opportunity, timing and options in a democratic system, acts accordingly and pays the price/reaps the rewards.

    The March 14 movement – a big impulse behind it was to destroy Michel Aoun and the chances of Aoun ever being President.

    March 14 won that battle, Mr Aoun is now too old to ever be the president – so March 14 lost part of its glue in its own victory. There is nothing very surprising about that, really, I don’t think.

    ….parties do whatever they think they have to do to ensure their representation at the Cabinet is, as they see it, “fair”.

    Democratic Gathering is also taking a risk – and it is very transparent for all to see. What is left of March 14 could set up a coalition with March 8 parties and exclude the Democratic Gathering altogether, that is a risk – there is Lebanese Democratic Party that can ensure all confessional groups get representation even without the Democratic Gathering’s five Druze MPs.

    Posted by Jean 'CZ' Estiphan | August 8, 2009, 4:03 am
  4. CZ,

    As far as I know, Muhammad al-Hajjar is officially part of the Future Movement’s bloc.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 8, 2009, 2:04 pm
  5. QN,

    I really disagree with you that Jumblatt’s move was genius. I would even call it along with his stupid attacks on M8 a few years ago short sighted and self damaging.

    While it’s understandable he should do what is needed to avoid his community’s marginalization. I believe The Beik could have maneuvered in a better manner for long term gains instead of insisting on punching over his weight constantly and in the now moment. Burning bridges with both parties has threatened him and more importantly his community with becoming disposable. His first flip flopping magic trick could have been pulled more pragmatically (without the insults, attacks, and extremist demands). And it will be interesting to see how well he will pull his latest one without being viewed as a untrustworthy traitor by M14.

    So yeah he will be the center of the attention for a while and parties might court him because they need him. But Jumblatt will be dropped the second he is not needed (that’s where loyalty could have helped).

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | August 8, 2009, 3:49 pm
  6. The polarised politics of Lebanon in the past 4 years was counter productive and damaging. Its about time someone “Dynamited” it. Who else but Jumbo could pull a feat like that.His move is more gutsy then genius and in pragmatic terms not shocking at all.On a regional level, everyones making up or feeling each other out, so the timing couldnt have been better.Shifty bastard that Jumbie.

    Posted by maverick | August 8, 2009, 4:41 pm
  7. On a side not, since you have the “Moallem” under the title: M14 comes undone. Ive always wondered, if he was still alive, where would he stand or would have stood in the past 4 years. Anyone?

    Posted by maverick | August 8, 2009, 4:44 pm
  8. Hi IC

    I can’t see Jumblatt being outsmarted any time soon. He’s the crafty old man of the mountain.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 8, 2009, 5:32 pm
  9. Obviously, a government needs a majority in parliament to govern. Otherwise it cannot do much and is at the whim of MPs. Hariri would be extra stupid to form a government unless he has a coalition agreement with Jumblatt that guarantees him a majority. And if Jumblatt signs a coalition agreement, what does it matter if he says he is in March 14 or not? He will have to vote with them anyway because of the agreement.

    So if Hariri is not really dumb, the Jumblatt defection is a non-event or the formation of a Lebanese government is not likely in the near future.

    Posted by AIG | August 9, 2009, 1:15 am
  10. Genius, indeed; with a healthy measure of political expediency, an ingredient that is most necessary in Lebanese politics.

    Would this change the domestic political landscape? Certainly. The question is whether this change would be for the better or worse.

    Syria, with its ever-present attitude of ‘wait and see’ is happy, and will only be happier in the coming days.

    Saudi Arabia, who is already claiming to be the ‘guardian’ of the newly emerging political regime, thus trumping Qatar and the Doha Agreement, is not wholly against Jumblat’s move so long that its ‘son’ Sa’ad Hariri is not hindered in forming the awaited Cabinet.

    USA is, for now, happy that such a thorny and complex issue is handled by its long standing ally Saudi and its emerging potential ‘friend’ Damascus. I have read a few days ago that the Lebanese file has been shifted to the White house away from the ‘real’ domain of Jeffrey Feltman at State.

    Israel is understandably not over the moon with Jumblat’s move. It is viewed there as a reversal as it enhances the hand of its arch enemy Hizbullah by, at least, give him a break from domestic bickering, which in turn would enable it to focus even more on the southern front.

    Already one can witness certain nervousness within M14 ranks. It has been widely reported that “several high ranking politicians” have been sending scouts to map out the route to Damascus, including Amine jemayel. Sami seems not very happy with his father’s wisdom at this stage, or perhaps would like to be first there!

    I truly believe that Jumblat’s move made obsolete both M14 and M8 in a political sense. It could also put to question the 15-10-5 Cabinet formula touted since the elections. Consequently, new political groupings would emerge, with Samir Ja’ja’ having to dig really deep to figure out what to do. However, there could be a silver lining for him: he will certainly be the last one to pay homage to Damascus. This might give him a unique position within the Christian camp and help galvanise his party’s fortunes to a limited extent. The question is: where would Ja’ja’ get his silver lining? Some think, indeed hope that it will come at the expense of Aoun’s base support. I disagree. If anything Ja’ja’ would pick some support from Kataeb and other ‘moderate/centralist’ Christians.
    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | August 10, 2009, 5:21 am
  11. Lebanese army showing off new training skills:

    http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD247609

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 10, 2009, 1:19 pm
  12. AP,

    So you have an issue with the LA commandos getting their training as they see fit?

    I don’t get the point you are trying to make. The LAF, might not be a match to the IDF in terms of armemants, especially that the IDF is a US welfare recipient, but you’ve got to give the LAF some credit for trying to improve its skills.

    The way I see it, the game has changed. Israel can’t impose its rogue rule over Lebanon period. Like stealing our precious water resources. Get used to it ok.

    I personally advocate reaffirming the 49 armistice agreement while we work out the few “minor” issues like the fate of the refugees, water rights (which we have more than you do. As you’re the one who’s always trying to steal it).

    In the meantime, stay on your side of the fence and don’t even let your cows wonder our way to get a drink. Geez, with such a “self” proclaimed advanced people, one would think that they could provide their bovines with water without them crossing the border. Now that galling!!!

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 10, 2009, 11:01 pm
  13. Don’t worry Ras Beirut. For al the lack of sophistication in weapons that Lebanon has, the IDF are still trying to explain why the 2006 July War didn’t go as planned.

    We don’t mind being unsophisticated fighters and we don’t mind not having the well oiled military machine that the IDF has. You need to ascend to a certain level of barbarity to be able to posses the weapons that Israel has, and mame the people that Isreal has and murder the people that Isreal has and still find time to mock another state’s poorly developed military.

    Posted by the Sydneysider | August 11, 2009, 12:42 am
  14. It is great to see PM-designate Harri has no problems with the Democratic Gathering’s formal withdrawal from the ‘March 14′ and the decision instead to move into the President’s bloc.

    I also think Mr Harri is 100 per cent correct to take a stand on the issue of failed Free Patriotic Movement candidates NOT having a seat at the Cabinet table.

    I wish the President would move to formalise this – if you want to be in Cabinet, get elected to Parliament first and get a direct mandate with voters!

    (Al Safir reports that Saad Hariri says the only obstacle to the formation of a national unity government was Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun’s ambitious and impossible-to-implement demand for the appointment of election losers….)

    Posted by Sofia al riachy | August 11, 2009, 2:13 am
  15. You need to ascend to a certain level of barbarity to be able to posses the weapons that Israel has, and mame the people that Isreal has and murder the people that Isreal has and still find time to mock another state’s poorly developed military.

    Sydneysider,

    cc: Ras Beirut

    I disagree. You don’t have “to ascend to a certain level of barbarity to be able to posses the weapons that Israel has”.

    Moreover, there has been orders of magnitude MORE barbarity, both mamed and murdered, WITHOUT a “developed military”.

    Namely, the Lebanese Civil War, the Syrian response to Hama, Saddam’s killing fields, and the jihadist insurgency in Iraq. Apparently, you don’t need a sophisticated armed forces to murder a lot of people.

    Just these three events amounted nearly a 1/2 million Arab deaths, all at the hands of other muslims and arabs. Iraq is still bleeding at the hands of other arabs and the strange thing is, I never hear other arabs mention it.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090810/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq

    So getting back to the REAL barbarians, the evil ZIONISTS, who killed 3000 arabs (mostly combatants) in two battles in retaliation for firing missiles into Israel, I’m still not sure how the live snake biting will liberate Palestine.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 11, 2009, 7:08 am
  16. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/opinion/11malley.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

    People are beginning to understand that occupation is not the problem. The very existence of the Jewish state is. I realized this in 1996 following Arafat’s actions after Rabin was murdered. It is time to have an honest conversation.

    Posted by AIG | August 11, 2009, 9:36 am
  17. AIG, I read that article this morning over breakfast and it never occurred to me that you would agree with Agha/Malley’s thesis.

    Not that they would necessarily agree with you that “occupation is not the problem”… the problem includes occupation but obviously goes beyond it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 11, 2009, 9:39 am
  18. QN,
    Why wouldn’t I agree with them? It takes me a couple of posts but usually when confronted with the issue of the lack of peace before 67 most interlocuters admit that their real problem is with the concept of the Jewish state and that the occupation is a much more minor issue. I know this is not your position and that you are for a real compromise.

    But let’s face it. I was too optimistic in the past and you are too optimistic now regarding the settlements and the notion that their removal would bring about peace. There will be no peace until most Arabs accept a Jewish state in the middle east. And if that change of heart ever happens, most Israelis would resolutely make sure that the settlement issue would be solved.

    However, the more I talk with Arabs, the less I am optimistic. Many are fascinated by some arcane concept of “justice” that is just not realistic and they flatly refuse to accept a Jewish state. So, as Israelis, we have to accept many more decades of low intensity warfare with one bigger war every 10 years or so. Nobody said getting and preserving a Jewish state would be a picnic.

    Hopefully, the Arabs will develop accountable governments sooner than later. That will not bring peace, but will make sure that there will not be war and that is not too bad either.

    Posted by AIG | August 11, 2009, 12:11 pm
  19. Initially, the concept of a ‘Jewish’ state is racist in principle; so is a Christian state and a Moslem one, I hasten to add. It discriminates on the basis of belief, albeit religious. In the case of Palestinians, the discrimination tends to go beyond religion, as the case is now. The Palestinians represent a constant reminder that all is not ‘kosher’ with the state of Israel. It is an agonising conundrum at the best of times. ‘Dealing’ with this ’issue’ exposes the racist element in that state, and pours scorn on the claims of ‘democracy’ and conformity with international norms. Let us remember how many UN resolutions refused to abide by (425 re occupation of Lebanon, as a case study of many) and numerous others that were vetoed by USA against the consensus of the international community.

    That said, I am all for the notion of ‘compromise’, which incidentally means different things to different people. It could however be boiled down to a simple layman’s interpretation: give and take.

    For argument’s sake, if Israel secured regional acceptance for a ‘Jewish’ state, what would it give in return to the Palestinians, all millions of them dispersed all over the world? Let us be objective and humane for a second and remember that the Palestinians had a homeland until 1948 for some and until 1967 for others, while the remainder have to succumb to daily violation of an occupying power.

    Now that the ‘take’ is secured, what about the ‘give’ side of the compromise equation? A dysfunctional state with no sovereignty, and with borders controlled by someone else? A state that will not be capable of defending itself, as the only armaments on offer are for settling domestic disputes? A state at the mercy of a ‘neighbour’ that is virtually a ‘superpower’ comparatively speaking, and subjected to the whim of settlers who are religiously driven?

    Away from the hyperbole and propaganda, it is clear that the ‘take’ is quite easy for Israelis who ‘subscribe’ to the concept of compromise. It is the ‘give’ element in the equation that will thwart any prospect of peace in the region.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | August 11, 2009, 12:41 pm
  20. Initially, the concept of a ‘Jewish’ state is racist in principle; so is a Christian state and a Moslem one, I hasten to add*.

    *And I’d like to add that I suspect you only like to single out the one, Jewish state in the world. But feel free to show us links to the other blogs where you spend the time critiquing the many Christian and Moslem states.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 11, 2009, 12:52 pm
  21. QuestionMarks,
    First the Jews are a nation and not only the religion. The religion are the customs of the nation. I am for one an atheist Jews and there is no contradiction in that.

    As to what the Palestinians will get, it is very similar to what Lebanese already have. For all practical purposes Lebanon is as demilitarized as Palestine will be. Jordan also has no real defense if Israel decides to attack it. Its real peace guarantees come from the international community. But unlike Lebanon, the Palestinians will have access to a first world market that will provide them with many economic benefits.

    The Arab countries, instead of paying compensation to the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands, will pay the Palestinian refugees compensation. They of course would also be allowed to return to the Palestinian state which will encompass most of the West Bank and Gaza. Land will be given to the Palestinians in exchange for the major settlement blocks and the rest of the settlements will be dismantled. I think this is basically the Geneva plan.

    Posted by AIG | August 11, 2009, 1:07 pm
  22. One is not obliged to provide a catalogue listing what is one writing or not writing on any subject.

    There are certain ideas that have been presented in this thread, over which a debate ensued, and which all are welcome to part take in with purpose or just to pitch in with a point of view. Electing to neglect points that arise and trying to put others on the defensive is a school yard ploy that seldom works.

    I will indulge, though; why Israel? Well for starters it was the focus of one of the comments, although the thread was about March 14th fate.

    Second, Israel happens to be one of the very few countries in the world that still maintains an occupation and settlements on occupied countries that has been condemned by most countries in the world, including, lest we forget USA.

    Third, while the world at large is veering visibly towards globalisation, openness, diversity and the embrace of multi cultures, Israel is fighting, literally, in the cause of isolationism and a long-abhorred form of racism by refusing the accept the rights the other, indeed will not except the existence of the other i.e. Palestinians.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | August 11, 2009, 1:13 pm
  23. QuestionMarks,
    The Arab world is not “veering visibly towards globalisation, openness, diversity and the embrace of multi cultures” and you know that. So why does it matter where the world is going?
    We live in the middle-east and if the Arab countries were anything like Western European countries we would have had peace a long time ago.

    Posted by AIG | August 11, 2009, 1:23 pm
  24. Second, Israel happens to be one of the very few countries in the world that still maintains an occupation and settlements on occupied countries…

    QuestionMarx,

    So now we understand that while you “take issue” with all countries that claim to be either Mulsim, Jewish or Christian, you really on feel it necessary to single out the one and only Jewish State.

    Further, while there are about 46 countries that have disputed borders, you have made it clear you are only interested in participating on blogs dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli border dispute.

    http://www.didyouknow.org/story/disputes.htm

    Your excuses notwithstanding, it doesn’t seem like objectivity is one of your strong points.;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 11, 2009, 1:56 pm
  25. It is quite clear that some of the contributors to this thread, indeed to this blog, are there to sabotage ‘effective’ debate by ignoring salient points raised in accordance with the spirit of dialogue, and try to push an agenda by repeating themselve over and over again. I find myself falling into this trap; something that intend to take measures to avoid.

    The Middle East is not Europe, sure. Neither is Israel the peace loving nation its mouth organs purport, far from it by almost international consensus. It is the only state that uses all its might in order to turn the clock back and assert a racist community based on religious belief (Judaism is a religion, the first monotheist religion in the world, and not a nationality; Palestinian is a nationality) where non-comrades in faith are ‘granted’ the tag of second class citizens at best.

    The Middle East is no USA, no doubt about that. But the Middle East’s turmoil is attributed directly to occupation and human abuse and constantly shifting the burden onto other. One initiative is the ‘Jordanian Option’, next the displaced people should be settled where they are currently, irrespective of the right of return for anyone displaced, as stipulated by umpteen international resolutions.

    Someone brought a smile to my face when suggesting that “Lebanon is demilitarised”. Quite an unbelievable statement at a time when Israeli politicians and observers alike have been grudgingly referring, since 2006, to the high level of preparedness of Hizbullah in Lebanon. It has taken Israel almost three years to repaire the domestic front as a result of the 2006 war, and in anticipating of another war with Lebanon, thanks to Hizbullah. In the light of this, the claim about demilitarised Lebanon sounds even more absurd, and indicates a deep state of denial.

    The following will come as a relief, perhaps, to QN and other contributors: From now on I will refrain from responding to any contribution that is outside the topic of the thread. This is an effort on my part to maintain order, keep the debate focused, and try to alienate hecklers and saboteurs; although the last objective is easier said than done.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | August 11, 2009, 2:17 pm
  26. But the Middle East’s turmoil is attributed directly to occupation and human abuse and constantly shifting the burden onto other.

    QuestionMarks,

    Your statement sort of refers to AIG’s question in Post 25 (perhaps you’ll answer it).

    Please explain how the following wars/battles/event were “attributed directly to occupation”:

    – The Iran-Iraq war (.25 to .5 million dead)

    – The Hama Massacre (30,000 to 40,000 dead)

    – Lebanese Civil War (130,000 to .25 million dead)

    – Sadam’s killing fields and invasion of Kuwait (at least 300,000 dead)

    Thanks.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 11, 2009, 3:31 pm
  27. And there we have it, the denial of the Jews of their right to self-determination as a nation and the denial of a Jewish state. Q.E.D.
    (that occupation is a very minor issue)

    That was a little easier than usual.

    Posted by AIG | August 11, 2009, 3:33 pm
  28. To the apologists for ethnic-cleansing ideology:

    That is also what the white South Africans were saying for a couple of centuries – “it is all about our self-determination”. “Stop talking about us, look at Idi..” etc, The Afrikaaner speaking political leaders justified their actions on black people by quoting British concentration camps of 1898-1902 for Afrikaaners.

    But of course the apartheid apologists were bieng less than honest. Things were more nuanced.

    The inconvient truth is that there is another people who are affected by the ideology of self determination for one group in a piece of land claimed by more than one people.

    It is an ideology that can only be secure in a permanent state of conflict – the South African colonial expression lasted from 1790s to 1990s – a copule of centuries of endless “unresolvable” conflict.

    The kind of “unresolvable” conflict you see this week whereby Jerusalem families get kicked out of their homes because of their race and replaced by another family with the correct race; the organised race based bullying of villages in the Triangle; the medical, food and transport strangulation of an entire civilian population in Gaza; the State-sanctioned and organised stealing of lands in the Jordan Valley; the expansion of race-based settlements etc.

    It is a different approach to dealing with inter community relations than is practised in Lebanon – Lebanon hopefully has a hope for a better future; the racist state offers its people endless war- preparation and an endless “hyping” of the “next threat” – is it Iran, or is it Turkey, no it is China or perhaps “the Muslims”. Who is it? Causing all of this trouble for the racist ideology?! Its the PLO. No its the Shiia.

    Silly stuff really! It is so boring thinking about the racist State and its impossible-to-solve problems.

    As for Lebanese culture and politics – the issue is can Lebanon do better than that? It seems there is a small chance, but it is too early to tell! I find it very positive that some members of the Lebanese Jewish community are investing and visiting again and rebuilding the syngagogue.

    And I agree with those that say the 400,000 Palestinians should be given the option of Lebanese citizenship – they would not automatically ally with Sunni and Orthodox – they would be more like Armenians, who often do things separately from other Christians.

    Posted by Sofia | August 11, 2009, 4:41 pm
  29. Shall we start the “save the Qifa Nabki blog appeal” from the repetitive rhetoric of the Arab/Isreali conflict.

    Posted by maverick | August 11, 2009, 4:51 pm
  30. But of course the apartheid apologists were bieng less than honest.

    Sofia,

    There really isn’t anything to apologize for.

    Arabs in Israel have the same rights as Jews.

    That is why Arabs prefer that their villages stay in Israel than be transferred to the PA.

    http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=3&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=253&PID=0&IID=1806&TTL=Deconstructing_Apartheid_Accusatio

    Silly stuff really! It is so boring thinking about the racist State and its impossible-to-solve problems.

    Sofia,

    If you’re so bored “thinking about the racist State™”, why are you here?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 11, 2009, 7:11 pm
  31. Question Marks,

    Feel free to comment on anything you like. I’m not going to enforce having people stick to the thread unless it gets very disruptive.

    But getting back to your original thought experiment about the give-and-take… I believe that AIG responded to you (basically saying that he supports the Geneva plan), but the discussion got derailed a bit with the intervention by Akbar. Do you have a reply to AIG now?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 11, 2009, 9:37 pm
  32. PS: I haven’t forgotten about our exchange about Hizbullah on the previous thread. I’d like to go back and read your response to my question regarding the price of resistance, etc. I’ve simply been swamped writing an article that will come out this Friday in the Review.

    Perhaps we could take it up again after that.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 11, 2009, 9:38 pm
  33. AIG,

    Kudos to you that you support the Geneva plan, which is not that dissimilar than the 2002 Beirut plan that was offered by the arab league as a “negotiating platform” with room to spare in dealing with some of the thorniest issues. Israel will obtain unconditional recognition from the entire arab world in return for returning to the 67 line more or less. Which by the way is more territory for Israel than the 47 UN partition plan.

    Now what has been the Israeli response been? In a nutshell it has been stalling and killing time while usurping more land and natural resources “by force” and create illegitimate facts on the ground through force.

    Look, even your biggest benefactor the US does not recognize your illegal settlements. Look it up, I ain’t kidding you. The reason being is because it is “Against International Law” period. And if your claim as official reason being as a nation is based on international law, i.e. the partition plan, then by golly you have to obey the other official international laws.

    As it stands right now, you are defying international law period. Any way one looks at it and nothing in between. You’re just prolonging the conflict out of pure greed to steal more land, and using every trick in the book to get there.

    I have a question for you. Do you really support what the settlers are doing in the west bank? Is it right what they are doing?

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 11, 2009, 10:44 pm
  34. Ras Beirut,
    To begin with I think international law is a joke. Israel was not created by international law. After all, the Arabs in 48 rejected the UN resolution and choose to attack Israel in an attempt to annihilate it. Israel was created because it won the war of 1948 and became a fait accompli. Nobody would have saved Israel if Israel would have lost, there would not be a state, international law or not. In short, I am not impressed by 22 non-democratic Arab states cynically citing international law after they tried war and didn’t succeed.

    Jews lived in Gush Etzion, East Jerusalem and Hebron for centuries. They were kicked out by the Arabs and between 48 and 67 were not allowed to pray at the Western Wall. Why do Jews not have a right to return to these places from which they were kicked out?

    When a settler asks me that I tell him he has a right to do so but if we attempt an historical compromise with the Palestinians we have give up some of our rights.

    Over the years, I have become convinced that the settlements are not what is holding peace up. It is the Arab denial of the Jewish state and the insistence on the right of return.

    It took several years after 67 before the first settlement appeared. Elon Moreh was founded in 1980! Look it up. From 67, Israel waited for the Arabs to come negotiate, but apart from Egypt all stuck to the 3 NOs from Khartoum. The Arabs refused to negotiate with Israel after 67. This allowed the settler movement to grow and prosper. You know from your own experience what a religiously driven energetic people can do, especially in a coalition driven democracy like Israel.

    So we have a tragedy, but it is not all Israel’s fault. The Arabs should have negotiated with Israel in 67, not waited till Madrid in 91.

    If some of the settlements are to be dismantled, (there is 0 chance the big blocks will go), it will be because Israelis like me feel that the Arabs are ready for a real historical compromise. But as you can see, once we penetrate the outer skin, it becomes clear to me and most Israelis that most Arabs do not accept a Jewish state in any form. With or without settlements. They also insist on the right of return. So why should we bother opposing the settlers? It takes a huge effort and a ton of time and may result in violence and internal strife. And what will we achieve even if we are successful? Nothing on the peace front. The historical compromise means TWO states, one which is JEWISH. Nothing else will do for 99% of the Jews in Israel.

    Posted by AIG | August 12, 2009, 12:39 am
  35. I wouldn’t have continued the discussion from the last thread, but seeing as how it has already invaded I thought I would wade in. I’ll stick to a response to the original post (as opposed to the “does Israel suck debate, round 280,324″)

    It seems that you and I, QN, both operate under the assumption that the Israelis react callously and violently to any external threat, but don’t inflict violence on countries that pose no threat at all. Hence, Hizbullah’s weapons aren’t a good deterrent, because the weapons themselves are the reason Israel is inclined to attack. But there are posters here who seem to think that Israel attacks Lebanon because well, that’s what Israel does. Out of spite maybe, or some primal sadism that will only be deterred by force. If educated, cosmopolitan QN readers genuinely believe this, then who is to say that Nasrallah doesn’t?

    Please, no one respond by telling me that Israel fights nobly, or that it starts wars purely for fun. That’s not the point here and that’s not an argument we need to have.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | August 12, 2009, 2:16 am
  36. Akbar Palace:

    I am here because this is a fantastic blog about Lebanese politics and culture.

    There are all these interjections on side issues – like some comments claiming that the state based on ethnic-cleansing to Lebanon’s south is somehow normal where Arabs have “equal rights”!

    It is so absurd – there are 400,000 Israeli Arabs in Lebanon – there are thousands stranded on the Iraq/Jordan border, hundreds of thousands in Syria and in Jordan.

    Yes of course they are Israelis. But the ethnic cleansing state does not allow them to live in their own land.

    Similar thing happened in South Africa under apartheid – with the refugees of the ANC fighting from neighbouring States.

    In the end, well we know what happened in the end. It is like the U.S.S.R., or apartheid South Africa or any state based on an ideology which is unsustainable, in the end the state will have to collapse in favour of greater democracy, liberty and justice.

    But none of this is of much interest to Lebanese culture and politics – except in so far as Lebanon’s challenge is not to be too damaged by the consequences of living next door to an aggressive, anti-Arab State on its door step. And it is relevant also in the sense that some parties in Lebanon (in the 1970s at least) did have fantasies of created new ethnic cleansed Lebanon (i.e. expelling the 400,000 Palestinians, and maybe a few others). By looking at the endless disaster which is Israel/Palestine, Lebanese politics and culture can learn not to go down that deadend track.

    Posted by Sofia al Riachy | August 12, 2009, 2:16 am
  37. AIG:

    “To begin with I think international law is a joke. Israel was not created by international law.”

    That is half true – but also, I think, half wrong.

    The creation of Israel would not have happened without the British and British Commonwealth troops taking Palestine in 1917 and the subsequent creation of the British Mandate over Palestine in 1920 and the British commitment to establishing in Palestine a Jewish home – after which the settlement process began in earnest with predicable resistance by the others who lived there and also call it home.

    There is no question that if Palestine was declared independent in 1920 then there would be no Israel now. It was 100 per cent British intervention that explains the existence of the State of Israel and the existence of the Palestinian diaspora so in that sense Israel is a creation of British military power.

    But it was also consistent with international law in the sense that international law in 1920 was a set of agreements between the British, France, the U.S. and a few others to lesser degrees (Japan, Italy etc).

    i.e. in 1920s almost no African or Asian States counted in terms of having a say on setting international law – the French could bomb the Syrian Congress of Deputies in Damascus, hang Lebanese democrats in Beirut and the League of Nations would deem in internationally lawful.

    Just as it was lawful for the establishment of French mandates in Syria and Lebanon while slicing off bits of Syria (a bit for
    Turkey and a for Lebanon respectively)while they were at it!

    International law is what is agreed by consensus between sovereign States at any given point of time, most especially the most powerful States.

    In that sense the creation of Israel was consistent with internationa law in 1947 – very few Asian or African countries had a vote in the General Assmebly then, and the U.N. most certainly didn’t offer a referendum of the actual people that lived in the country as to whether they wanted partition!

    It is very clear that there will never be a separate Palestinian state – the settlement programme since 1920 has gone way past the date at which such a thing would be possible – even the Foreign Minister of Israel lives in the West Bank these days.

    Palestinians lived under Israeli de facto sovereignty in Gaza and West Bank – or they live as stateless persons in Lebanon and Iraq – or as citizens in Jordan and in Syria.

    It is all lawful under international law in the sense that the great powers sanction all of this.

    But at a moral and strategic level, the challenge for Lebanon is to give citizenship rights to the Palestinians on its soil – and, in time, logic will dictate that an increasingly educated and urbanized West Bank and Gaza population will seek equal citizenship rights within Israel – what we can be absolutely sure of is that the Palestinians won’t forever accept less than real citizenship rights in either Lebanon or in the Land of Israel.

    Posted by Jean C Z Estiphan | August 12, 2009, 4:26 am
  38. Just so you all know: if you change your screen name or email address, your comment is going to go to moderation. So pick one name/address and stick with it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 12, 2009, 7:52 am
  39. Sofia al Riachy responds:

    I am here because this is a fantastic blog about Lebanese politics and culture.

    I agree. Unfortunately, I find Lebanese politics a little too fragmented to follow or understand well. Enemies become friends and friends become enemies, and then the semi-annual car bomb seems to be the final “say” as the “executive” branch of government renders judgement.

    There are all these interjections on side issues – like some comments claiming that the state based on ethnic-cleansing to Lebanon’s south is somehow normal where Arabs have “equal rights”!

    Sorry for boring you as we interject on this Lebanese website. This follows from an earlier thread where tensions seemed to be mounting between our two beautiful countries.

    It is so absurd – there are 400,000 Israeli Arabs in Lebanon – there are thousands stranded on the Iraq/Jordan border, hundreds of thousands in Syria and in Jordan.

    Arabs that either left or were kicked out of Israel years ago during Israel’s war of independence, and their children are no longer Israeli unless they can show a passport issued by the Israeli government.

    Yes of course they are Israelis. But the ethnic cleansing state does not allow them to live in their own land.

    The “ethnic cleansing state” currently consists of 1.5 million Arabs, and they live in Israel as we speak. Who knows, one day soon the “ethnic cleansing state” may have a majority of Arabs. Will you then continue referring to it as such?

    Similar thing happened in South Africa under apartheid – with the refugees of the ANC fighting from neighbouring States.

    Speaking of boredom, we Zionists here these accusations all the time from anti-Zionists. But they are False. Apartheid was legalized racism. These laws are foreign in Israel and do not exist.

    http://africanhistory.about.com/library/bl/blsalaws.htm

    In the end, well we know what happened in the end. It is like the U.S.S.R., or apartheid South Africa or any state based on an ideology which is unsustainable, in the end the state will have to collapse in favour of greater democracy, liberty and justice.

    Israel already has democracy. The majority concensus determines policy and votes for their representatives. Arabs vote and each Arab vote counts just as much as an Jewish vote.

    But none of this is of much interest to Lebanese culture and politics – except in so far as Lebanon’s challenge is not to be too damaged by the consequences of living next door to an aggressive, anti-Arab State on its door step.

    Since you are posting, I can only assume you are interested. Israel is only as aggressive as the Hezbollah, their Katyushas and Iranian missiles have been in the past the threat they pose in the future. I hope your friends bravely protecting South Lebanon do not accidently fire one off accidently in the hope of freeing Palestine.

    And it is relevant also in the sense that some parties in Lebanon (in the 1970s at least) did have fantasies of created new ethnic cleansed Lebanon (i.e. expelling the 400,000 Palestinians, and maybe a few others). By looking at the endless disaster which is Israel/Palestine, Lebanese politics and culture can learn not to go down that deadend track.

    Yes, learning both about Lebanon and the ethnic cleansing state can help reduce violence and misery for both communities. I would like to disagree though about what you think is “the endless disaster which is Israel/Palestine”. I think Lebanon has been a greater disaster just by the amount of deaths and destruction Lebanon has experienced this past 40 years as well as their ailing economy.

    That is why I think Israeli-Arabs are “secretly” glad they ive the “ethnic cleansing state”. That’s just MHO.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 12, 2009, 7:53 am
  40. @Abraham Rotsapsky #37

    Excellent comment and a great way to start that debate up again. Maybe Question Marks will come back and re-join.

    The only thing I’d add is that I recognize the need for Lebanon to develop a strong (enough) defense, and deterrence is kind of the only way you can do that with such a small country surrounded by big and mean neighbors.

    But this is what I originally meant when I said that there is such a thing as “too much deterrence”.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 12, 2009, 10:44 am
  41. Jean C Z Estiphan,

    Thanks for the history lesson.

    It is very clear that there will never be a separate Palestinian state…

    And there may never be a Kurdish state, or a Tibetan state, or a Berber state. Life is full of disappointments.

    Anyway, if Jordan is 70% Palestinian, perhaps Jordan can be a Palestinian State. Of course, don’t say anything about that in public.

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443863400&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 12, 2009, 11:48 am
  42. QN,
    It is a waste of money and unrealistic for Lebanon to build military deterrence against Israel or Syria. What protects Lebanon are its ties to the international community, and if Lebanon does not initiate a war, it will not be attacked. Syria has basically gone bankrupt trying to keep up with Israel and with no useful effect as the attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor showed.

    (Check out the latest about electricity in Syria: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5htmizu2w29_9Ovwv40osK_6Zxtxw
    )

    And when Iron Dome and other classified systems are fully operational in a few years, all the investments in short range missiles will be for naught.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Dome

    As for the long range missiles, they are useless without a credible air-defense. You can at most fire one volley before the launchers are taken out. Israel has undisputed air-superiority now and on top of that will be receiving the first F-35s in 2012 or so. Furthermore, as was the case in 2006, the big missiles are difficult to store secretly and the storage locations are quickly bombed. You cannot put a large missile and a launcher in someone’s house or in a simple underground bunker.

    So Lebanon basically has a choice of going bankrupt pursuing futile measures or relying for its safety on the international community.

    Of course, many Lebanese believe that Hizballah and its rockets are a deterrence. That is typical of the Arab-Israeli conflict where two different people see the same situation in a very different way. Deterrence is what Israel has vis a vis Syria. Even though Israel bombed the Syrian nuclear reactor, the Syrians were deterred from attacking Israel. If Hizballah thinks it deters Israel, let them shoot a couple of rockets and the truth will come out. The fact that Hizballah did nothing during the Gaza offensive, and in fact in the last three years, shows that Israel’s deterrence is very effective.

    Posted by AIG | August 12, 2009, 11:59 am
  43. Qifa Nabki #42

    Thanks for the invite, although I didn’t need one, really. I was just waiting for the ‘right’ contribution/thread, as I explained in my last contribution. By-the-by, my intention from the last post wasn’t for you to purge anyone, rather to point out to you, being the ‘moderator’ of one of the more respected blogs about Lebanon and ME affairs, that some contributions are intended to subvert rather than enrich.

    Abraham Rotsapski #37 & Qifa Nabki#42

    It goes without saying that Israel, indeed any political entity for that matter, would take appropriate measures if it feels threatened. However, Israel for decades, and Bush’s administration later on, took that notion to new levels of violence by adhering to a quite subjective principle of pre-emptive military strikes. These initiatives brought the two countries face to face with international laws and resolutions. In 1982, at a time when the Lebanese-Israeli border was relatively quite as a result of international mediation between the then PLO and Tel Aviv, the latter used the pretext of a dubious assassination attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador to London to launch a savage invasion of Lebanon. What transpired afterwards was that Ariel Sharon’s secretive doctrine of regime change in Lebanon and installing a ‘friendly’ regime was carried out beyond the anticipated 40 km surge north of the Litani River under the guise of revenge and pre-emptive strike.

    It is well documented that a central element of Israel’s military doctrine is focused on psychological operations, a factor of which is continuously demonstrating the state’s prowess and its ‘decisiveness’ (read brutality) in the face of enemies and potential enemies alike. This tactic, with a strategic dimension, started before the creation of Israel when Zionist gangs from Europe roamed the Palestinian countryside inflicting as much killing and destruction on towns, and making sure that neighbouring villages heard about it. This led to much fleeing before the Zionist forces’ advance, making the battle easier. The same principle, with variations dictated by modern weaponry and different type of adversary, was applied to this day. So, yes, Israel does react/behave “callously and violently”, as Abraham termed it, but “not out of spite or primal sadism (Abraham again), but because this is a military tactic with strategic dimensions. I believe the over handed and disproportionate approach (not solely my impression but the words of many a Western leader at the time) to Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in later are prime examples.

    Deterrence nowadays, in my opinion, is no longer only a factor of who has the more destructive weapons, but who stands to suffer more and who has more to lose, especially when both sides have a capability of inflictive pain by targeting the other’s ‘weak’ points. By studying the war of 2006, an argument can be made that Hizbullah came across two such weaknesses: 1) transferring the fight to its adversary’s home, and 2)conducting a prolonged war. In its military conflicts with the its neighbours, Israel has always endeavoured for the fighting to take place on territory belonging to its adversary, and a swift, almost instant result. This time round, the war spilled into territories controlled by Israel, and the fighting was prolonged with no successful resolution in sight. Remember that the Hizb maintained an almost steady barrage of missiles all the way till the moment the official announcement to seize fire was made.
    Thus, I believed that so far, and until further notice, Lebanon, through Hizbullah, has managed to set a new tactical balance (some call a balance of terror). This balance has so far prevented either side from embarking on an ‘adventure’. Indeed, this balance has introduced a period of relative calm and stability that perhaps has been alien to that part of Lebanon for decades.

    That said, I believe that this is only a temporary state of affairs, alas. Lebanon, in its current status quo represents a ‘threat’ to Israel, both tactically and strategically. The threat becomes more far reaching in the light of the fact that Hizbullah’s rhetoric is embraced throughout most of the Arab and Islamic world –on a popular level, of course. All regional and international efforts, military and political/diplomatic, to neutralise the ‘threat’ that the Hizb poses to Israel, the West and some Arab regimes have proved so far futile.

    On the other hand, Israel needs to regain the upper hand and restore its once fabled psychological deterrence that has been undermined in Lebanon in 2006 and to a lesser extent Gaza. For Israel has to win hands down to prevail, while its adversaries have only to survive and inflict damage for them to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of some Arabs and Moslems about the fallibility of Israel’s claims about its omnipower.

    Israel cannot succeed by diplomacy, politics or news leaks about its restored, new found military prowess. What is needed here is a fight that Israel will emerge from the clear victor, and that is exactly what it is working on. Meanwhile Hizbullah continues to arm at a steady pace.

    Both are playing a cat and mouse game, waiting for the other to blink first, while knowing full well that the next round could potentially be THE ONE that would start a dynamic leading ultimately to a whole new geo-political ME.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | August 12, 2009, 1:30 pm
  44. Subversive Post 3: “Fables in Motion”

    On the other hand, Israel needs to regain the upper hand and restore its once fabled psychological deterrence that has been undermined in Lebanon in 2006 and to a lesser extent Gaza.

    QuestionMarks,

    It seems to me you’ve been reading too many Jonathan Kellerman novels.

    Just my 2 cents, but IMO, Israel has to return to pre-emption, instead of wearing the “Hit Me” sign Arafat taped on the back of the Israeli government. Gaza, hopefully, marked the end of the “Hit Me” era in Israeli politics.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 12, 2009, 2:30 pm
  45. QN –

    Sorry for the bold screw-up in my previous post.

    Here’s an interesting article concerning Lebanon:

    http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2009/08/where-the-middl.php

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 12, 2009, 3:06 pm
  46. @QuestionMarks #45

    I don’t really buy the argument that Israel is planning a war just so that it can make up for whatever objectives it failed to achieve in 2006, and re-create some kind of psychological aura around its military forces.

    But just for argument’s sake, let’s accept this premise. Which groups, countries, or individuals would Israel hope to deter using this strategy that it is not deterring already? I haven’t seen any real mobilization going on around the region since 2006 which suggests that Hizbullah’s Divine Victory convinced anyone that this was a good time to attack Israel.

    At the end of the day, for me, it boils down to a couple of simple questions. What do we, as Lebanese, want from Israel? Let’s be very clear and honest with ourselves about our demands, just like our Syrian neighbors have been very clear about their demands.

    Our constructive ambiguity about resistance vs. defense vs. deterrence really only serves others, not ourselves.

    If the choice is between (a) seeing a school in South Lebanon blown up just so that Hizbullah can prove to the region that the IDF is not invincible (even if they can still blow up schools and highways and airports and power plants in retaliation), or (b) coming to some kind of peace agreement so that the kids who live near that school in South Lebanon have a chance to get an education and grow up and help build their country, I’m going to choose the second option.

    But that’s just me.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 12, 2009, 10:54 pm
  47. QN,

    I hear you loud and clear and agree with your conclusion. The big issue in my view is the refugees issue. It seems that the majority of the lebanese feel that it was an issue imposed on Lebanon by Israel, and the latter does not want to even acknowledge the problem or thinks that it is Lebanon’s problem only.

    You hear all the brouhaha from the majority of the political parties about tawteen this and that and how it is not acceptable, especially from the FPM who accuse the FM of planning tawteen behind the scene to increase the sunni ranks, etc.

    I personally feel that the refugee issue should be resolved as has been discussed before by all parties thru compromises. Some will go back to Israel/West Bank, some will stay in Lebanon, and the rest will get a free ticket to Europe, the US and some Gulf states/KSA.

    This issue though should be dealt with thru a “Comprehensive” Arab?Israeli agreement, but so far Israel is not willing to be reasonable in reaching a real comprehensive land for peace agreement. They want peace allright, recognition and all, plus be left alone, but also keep all of the stolen land including all of Jerusalem and treat the West Bank as a colony. I doubt this formula will ever work long term, as it is not conducive to long term peace.

    The other issue you have is that politically and realistically speaking, Lebanon cannot enter into an agreement with Israel before Syria does or all hell will break loose. So the fate of the Lebanese track is tied to the Syrian/Palestinian/arab league track.

    The comprehensive track is the way to go. But you need two to tango.

    Unless AIG becomes the new israeli PM, then all will be the clear, and Nirvana will set in on the Levant and peace will blossom. Hehe.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 13, 2009, 12:00 am
  48. This issue though should be dealt with thru a “Comprehensive” Arab?Israeli agreement, but so far Israel is not willing to be reasonable in reaching a real comprehensive land for peace agreement. They want peace allright, recognition and all, plus be left alone, but also keep all of the stolen land including all of Jerusalem and treat the West Bank as a colony. I doubt this formula will ever work long term, as it is not conducive to long term peace.

    The other issue you have is that politically and realistically speaking, Lebanon cannot enter into an agreement with Israel before Syria does or all hell will break loose.

    Placing these words into my Google translator, I get this:

    We can easily make peace with Israel (just like Egypt and Jordan) because there is really no border dispute, however, if we DO make peace with Israel, we will be at war with our own people.

    …coming to some kind of peace agreement so that the kids who live near that school in South Lebanon have a chance to get an education and grow up and help build their country, I’m going to choose the second option.

    QN –

    Unfortunately, you are in the minority. The majority of Arabs (Arabs who live in countries that have yet to make peace with Israel) prefer resistance against Israel than improving their own standard of living. And no one dares to speak out against this situation (except on anonymous blogs).

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 13, 2009, 6:54 am
  49. Qifa Nabki #48

    It is your prerogative not to buy into the argument that “Israel is planning a war just so that it can make up for whatever objectives it failed to achieve in 2006, and re-create some kind of psychological aura around its military forces”, the glaring and obvious proof notwithstanding.

    Lately, and as the 3rd anniversary of the 2006 war was approaching, I devoted considerable time to review several research work, studies and opinion pieces by Israelis (most of them former members of the Israeli military and/or senior personnel at some of the more respected ‘think tanks’). I found a great deal to make me comfortable in my assertion that there is a grave need for Israel to redress the unfavourable strategic balance that developed as a direct result of that war.

    Israel, realising that perhaps the time is not currently conducive for yet another whole scale military operation, due primarily to the preparedness of Hizbullah in every aspect, tried other avenues that so far have failed. The first was to create a schism between the Hizb and each of Syria and Iran, by dangling the proverbial carrot of the ‘political and economic benefits’ of peace with Israel in return for Damascus stopping its support for Hizbullah and the other ‘resistance’ movements. While with Iran, the opportunity arose to weaken the regime in Tehran enough for it to reverse its strategy of embracing the Hizb is proving illusive.

    Simplification sometimes helps make an otherwise complex situation easier to appreciate. However, it carries in it the seeds of missing many a central and key point. I feel that the latter was, without design, I am sure, the case.

    We already agree, I trust, that there is quite a wide rift between regimes and the governed in the Arab world. The conflict with Israel represents a glaring example of just such a rift. No one is anticipating that Hizbullah’s ‘success’ in 2006 would galvanise Arab armies bordering Israel to launch attacks. Rather, that ‘success’ dispelled, for the time being at least, the oft-repeated and utilised theory that ‘there is no sense in fighting the regional superpower as it will always prevail’. This in itself represents, or ought to represent, a notable shift in strategic thinking, and a first step, perhaps towards a real geo-strategic shift in the region. Let us not forget that members of the armed services in any country are part of the fabric of society and consequently are impacted by the popular mood.

    Some, including yours truly, believe that the development of the conflict is a matter of evolution rather than revolution. I believe Israeli thinkers and observers appreciate that.

    You claim that our ambiguity regarding resistance, defence and deterrence benefits others not Lebanon. I beg to differ.

    This claim pre-supposes that Hizbullah is not Lebanese and does not have the sovereignty and wellbeing of the country at heart. I have to concur with you that some Lebanese feel that that is the case. Certainly Israel has devoted a lot of energy and resources to try to prove this to be true. That said, I do not think that you, or any other observer or student of events in Lebanon since the late fifties (some claim before) can deny the extent of Israeli interest in the affairs of Lebanon. Without going into a lesson in history, I will restrict myself to the following statement: a Lebanon that moves in the orbit of Israel is conducive to the strategic security of that state, irrespective of the benefits, or lack of it, to Lebanon.
    History tells us that only deterrence prevents catastrophes.

    Your reference to the school in south Lebanon, although noble in intention I am sure, falls into the realm of over-simplification that borders on misinformation by neglecting the core subject of the conflict between Lebanon and Israel, and that is the historical designs of Israeli strategy in Lebanon, and the need of the former to have in the latter a pliable entity that would serve its regional objectives from territory to water, not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon, which makes the country a natural focus for Tel Aviv. Don’t get me wrong, in normal circumstances, given the choice; I would certainly opt for the choice that you made. Alas, Lebanese, or most of them, view Israel as a belligerent enemy that is always looking after number one.

    Peace, a lasting one that is, requires that both sides of the equation can muster enough bargaining chips on relatively equal footing, otherwise any agreement would be lopsided and subject to be ultimately broken with potentially disastrous consequences.

    For all those who long for a lasting peace I encourage them to look at the deterrence asserted on the part of Lebanon vis-a-vis Israel as an opportunity to achieve their dream and not the other way round.

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMarks | August 14, 2009, 4:21 am
  50. QuestionMarks said:

    Rather, that ‘success’ dispelled, for the time being at least, the oft-repeated and utilised theory that ‘there is no sense in fighting the regional superpower as it will always prevail’. This in itself represents, or ought to represent, a notable shift in strategic thinking, and a first step, perhaps towards a real geo-strategic shift in the region.

    Ok, how? Can you explain the long-term effects with any more specificity other than to say that it is an evolution towards a real geo-strategic shift? What exactly do you have in mind?

    You see, this is where I find the arguments in favor of resistance to fall apart. Are you saying is that Lebanese civilians should pay the ultimate price so that some kind of slow regional evolutionary process towards a vague geo-strategic shift in power continues to take place?

    You claim that our ambiguity regarding resistance, defence and deterrence benefits others not Lebanon. I beg to differ. This claim pre-supposes that Hizbullah is not Lebanese and does not have the sovereignty and wellbeing of the country at heart.”

    I hear this argument all the time, and I find it puzzling. What does Hizbullah’s Lebanese-ness have to do with the fact that its actions (also) benefit other regimes? Every single political actor in Lebanon has ties to foreign regimes. Hizbullah receives almost ALL of its funding from Iran and depends heavily on logistical support from Syria. Even if one believes that they are the most patriotic party in Lebanon, do you really think that their actions do not serve their sponsors, and that this dynamic does not enter their calculations?

    Why not lay out, in very clear terms, how you think Lebanon should approach the conflict? You think we need to muster bargaining chips, that’s fine. How many chips is enough? What kinds of chips? And what will we demand once we’ve mustered them?

    Failing to address these questions amounts to, yes, a policy of ambiguity regarding deterrence vs. defense vs. resistance in my book, which only serves others.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 14, 2009, 8:33 am
  51. Interesting analysis QuestionMarks.
    I really enjoyed your short ping pong with QN. I think it’s one of the clearest discussions on strategy (concerning the Israeli-Lebanese conflict) I’ve come across. I personally believe you are both stressing important points that can be easily reconciled.

    And yet, I’m not sure about two of your assessments.

    – I agree with you that the Israeli military apparatus is obsessed with “demonstrating the state’s prowess and its ‘decisiveness’ (read brutality) in the face of enemies and potential enemies alike” {QuestionMarks #45}. And I think Qifa Nabki misses this point when he interprets in terms of deterrence {Qifa Nabki #48}. Your approach looks into the subjective manner in which the Israeli military apparatus views things, and you take into account its self-image (“State invulnerability” guaranteed by an “invulnerable army” which happens to be the “most moral army in the world”) and its doctrine of distrust (It sees Arab as “natural” ennemies of the Israeli state, and the regimes that have made peace with Israel as “weak friends” that can be toppled or replaced by other regimes… it’s these potential regimes that it wants to “deter”).

    – I agree with Qifa Nabki when he says that “the ambiguity about resistance vs. defense vs. deterrence really only serves others, not ourselves”. This whole strategy was developed by the Syrian regime to serve its interests. I believe that it should be rethought entirely. Last year, the FPM tried very unconvincingly to do it. The document it produced was quickly (and rightly) dismissed, but unfortunately, without much debate. Qifa Nabki’s question is crucial “What do we, as Lebanese, want from Israel?”, and I will add, “what do we want for ourselves?”
    Don’t you find it strange that this ambiguous “defence strategy” we have doesn’t take into account the civilian population (no plans of evacuation, no plans to provide for them in case of bombing or invasion, no shelters, no alarm signals…).

    This unfortunate “oversight” is very telling. There’s one thing that is systematically missing in all discussion concerning the Israeli/Palestinian issue, at least from “our” side, and its the PEOPLE! Very little is said about human lives and livelihoods. Fighting a war doesn’t mean disregarding human lives and livelihoods, especially if they are part of a “defensive strategy”.
    In all discussions, the analysis turns macro and people are seen as pawns that can be disregarded or moved around. And this is quite general, when talking about a “Comprehensive” Arab-Israeli agreement, Ras Beirut #49 dispatches the Palestinians of Lebanon as if they were a commodity. These people were born in our country, they have lived all their lives in our country, all their memories are in Lebanon, all their social network is in Lebanon. They might not speak of it for political and ideological reasons. But they have ties to the country that should be respected. I think it’s the only region on earth where refugees are discussed in that fashion. Upholding their right of return doesn’t mean threatening or ignoring their right to stay and be treated equally.

    Sorry for my tantrum. Some comments just drive me crazy!

    This being said, it is really strange the way any comment on Israel/Palestine or the Arab-Israeli conflict can hijack any discussion.

    The discussion is about March XIV®, isn’t it?
    @QN Great entry. I just have two remarks.
    Mohammed al-Hajjar is still part of the Democratic Gathering (even if he is part of the Hariri/Mustaqbal patronage network). I believe you misrepresented in this discussion the dynamics and meaning of “bloc” membership. It’s really a political phenomenon that is quite specific to Lebanon and very interesting to work on. Its dynamics take into consideration multiple factors. Antoine Andraos, for instance, was also part of the Democratic Gathering bloc, even though he was part of the Hariri patronage Network. Another case is equally interesting, it’s that of Anouar el-Khalil who is quite close to Jumblatt and even closer to Hariri even though he is a member of Nabih Berri’s Liberation and Development bloc. “Thing under the magnifying glass can look simpler than they are”.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | August 14, 2009, 9:11 am
  52. I figured I’d start participating in discussions on this blog and give my two cents on this issue, which I’m sure QN would appreciate ;-).

    Before we can effectively tackle this contentious issue of armed resistance, I think it is important to address the oft-repeated slogan “freedom, sovereignty, independence,” which both sides of this debate continuousl proclaim to represent. Forgive me if my post is a little long, but it is a necessary step to clearly define the terms of this debate.

    Before we elaborate on the above three issues, we have to set a criterion on which our discussion and conception should be Based.

    1- Freedom – Sovereignty – Independence are Values of Life.

    2- Those Values are Not Political, They are National.

    3- Values of Life are Not individual, they are Social Values.

    Let us start with Freedom:

    Freedom is the struggle to achieve what is best for society.

    A lot of people, including some thinkers, disagree with the concept of freedom as a national value, or a social value, as they favor the idea that freedom is an individual quality that Should be respected and maintained in support of so-called Human Rights principles.

    Based on the above, those individualists adopt the following concept of freedom:
    My freedom stops where others’ freedoms start.

    I view this as an erroneous concept for the reasons laid out below.

    IF this concept were true, (which it is not), then there would be no point in introducing diciplinary systems in organizations, such as the Army, hospitals, schools, universities, government offices, law firms,etc. Those diciplinary systems contradict the Individualualists’ conception of freedom, because they restrict the activities of members of these respective organizations, and they limit the authorities of each.

    Based on the above, I consider Freedom to be a Social Value that is defined by the interest of the society, all generations of which should practice it to meet their social belonging to a prosperous and progressive nation. No national interest is achieved by empty slogans, dreams, and division. Furthering and serving national interests are a result of an ongoing struggle, as demonstrated by the following examples:

    Security.

    Building a strong Army, improving on weapons and equipment, improving on tactics, plans, and training techniques, etc., ensures national security, yet it requires the efforts of the engineer who invents and designs devices and weapons, the doctor who improves and enhances battlefield medical services, an administrator who introduces layouts and personnel and manpower allocation,etc., and includes inventory management, vehicle mechanics, in other words almost every profession in life. It is a continuous process of hard work; i.e. Struggle.

    Science.

    Our national interest dictates on us that we be innovative in the scientific field, establishing research and development institutions that cater to the exploration of our educated generations, providing them the opportunity to discover new medicines, new mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, or electronic devices, and even being involved in nano technology. This will boost up the standard of our universities, add value to education, open up economic potentials, and improve our industrial sector.

    If these endeavors, along with others, are performed, practiced and executed, it would give our nation the freedom of dictating our interests on others, due to self-sufficiency in a lot of areas. This is the essence of Struggle, and it applies to every aspect of the social and national life, including economy, finance, art, education, trade, politics, etc.

    The Government is to provide the opportunities for its people to be able to be productive, setting up rules and measures to ensure Harmony in the production process, and never to allow monopolies, whether by individuals, companies or even governments institutions. All efforts put together in such a system will ultimately result in the freedom of the society, members of which would enjoy directly and indirectly the fruits of their struggle to improve their living standards and meet their national interest’s requirments.

    However, if we do not have the capability to safeguard and ensure our continued free struggle for what is best for society, then we can never be free in the true sense, and our children’s and children’s children’s future will continue to be marred by uncertainties, lack of opportunities, poor economic conditions, etc.

    Sovereignty

    The issue of sovereignty cannot be properly comprehended unless we take into consideration the Homeland and our National Rights.
    So before we can further our discussion, we have to determine what is the Homeland, and what are our National Rights.

    The Homeland is the geographical area, or as a more accurate definition, the natural environment, over which the nation evolved.

    Accordingly, our homeland is our identity, by which our character is determined, and our outlook on life was developed. It is an environment that has embraced our ancestors, who conducted their life over it, provided it with their best, defended it from invaders, and most importantly, interacted with its nature in a process of developing our identity. This homeland means our history, our existance and our future; in short, it is our Life. We therefore have no interest in Life without our Home Land. (We as a nation/society, not as individuals).Accordingly, any breach of our homeland is a breach of our existence, our future and our interests.

    Our homeland should at all times be under the control and jurisdiction of our nation. Our nation/society is the only authority that has the right to declare what, how, where and when to utilize our natural resources, protect our identity, secure our borders and ensure the safe developement of our natural environment. In other words, we are the only ones with the right to determine the fate of our homeland.No one understands our needs like us. No one can appreciate our interests like us, and definitely, no one cares for our welfare like we do. Accordingly, our sovereignty means our will in life. It means our character.

    And notice that I said our nation is the sole authority, and not our government. This is simply because sovereignty means that even if a group of people, or a complete generation has decided to give away a piece of our homeland, they would be breaching the nation’s sovereignty over its natural environment, for this is not a property, it is a natural environment; it is a Right that all generations share; those who were here before us, the present one, and the coming generations as well. We have no right to place our homeland under another nation’s will, as the coming generations have rights to the land equal to ours, and we have obligations to deliver it to our children equal to our forefathers’.

    AnyBODY, (Meaning organization, institution, government, state, etc.) who takes advantage of our weakness to speak on our behalf, dictate on us “our” interest, or decide on our behalf the course of our life, is also in breach of our sovereignty. Again, The only authority that has the right to determine our national interests in life is our nation.

    Accordingly, sovereignty means national will.

    Based on the Above, we notice the importance of maintaining a sovereign nation over its homeland and its will in life.

    Independence

    There are two important factors to consider when addressing the issue of independence, Materialistic Independence and Spiritual Independence.

    A lot of us think that independence is a political achievement, whereby we recognize it by assigning a date on which we celebrate the liberation of our country from foreign occupation. This concept is trivial and shallow. as independence has more to it than being free from foreign military occupation.

    Today there is not a semblance of independence in Lebanon, as we heavily feel the influence of foreign nations’ WILLS on our Daily life, even though we do not have any foreign troops on our soil, (except of course the UN, which are supposed to be under the supervision and command of the Lebanese Army). Yet, we cannot decide on ANY matter, being it political, social, or economic, without the interference of foreign influence.

    So then what is independence? How do free nations enjoy independence? How do free nations protect and immunize their independence?

    Independence is the state whereby a nation is completely free and sovereign in tackling its on life matters without any external influence. In other words, it is a state whereby the nation has reached a national maturity to acknowledge its identity, decide upon the nature of its interest and apply its will on all matters concerning its life, prosperity and progress.

    Social:

    The social factor of independence is when a society knows its character and decides upon its course in life, reflecting its own vision according to its needs for a better life. It is the spirit whereby the people can never accept any dictating from external powers on internal matters. This is called spiritual independence.

    Material Independence

    To be independent from foreign influence, in the true sense, we have to immunize our national economy. This means that we should develop our own industries, trade system, financial vision, and administrative concepts that may bring our nation as close as possible to self-sufficiency. Of course there is no such thing as completel self-sufficiency, but we should be able to offer other nations so much of what they need that they become dependent on our production. Otherwise, we are bound to become subjected to other nations’ dictates, thus opening the door for them to impose their interests on us, thereby jeopardizing our independence.
    What we should do is safeguard our will with our own national production, meet our internal needs, and spread our efforts through all fields of life, including agriculture, industry, trade, finance, etc.

    So as you can see, independence is a result of hard work, equal to sovereignty and Freedom. In fact, the interlink is so strong that we can hardly imagine achieving one without the others, or lacking one without the others.

    This is why nations build, solidify, and strengthen themselves in all fields, including the military, without which they cannot effectively deter other nations from imposing their wills upon them. Now, the building of a military, or an armed forces, is not merely for aesthetic purposes, but for the clear objective of defending the nation and the homeland against foreign threats and designs. And having an effective defense, means having an effective deterrent capability, because if other nations know that the costs of any military adventure on your land far outweigh the benefits, then they are likely to opt for the peaceful route.

    In Lebanon, the political establishment has never demonstrated a will or a commitment to build an effective armed forces, capable of defending the homeland against foreign attacks. As such, a resistance arose which effectively and successfully took on the role of such an armed forces. Therefore, there really is no ambiguity between resistance vs. defense vs. deterrence, as they are all part and parcel of the same thing. The resistance has mounted an effective defense against “Israeli” attacks and therefore forms a deterrence to any possible military adventures in Lebanon.

    Thus, QN, you phrased your two options incorrectly. A school building is merely a structure; it can be rebuilt. However, possessing a true, effective educational and academic system supported by a strong, sustainable economy requires our ability to ensure that foreign nations’ wills are not dictated upon us so that we may continue to freely struggle to achieve what is best for our society. Our goal is not to have a “peace agreement” but rather to have the strength to provide a peaceful environment in which our people can advance and progress freely. The US, for example, does not have a “peace agreement” with the rest of the world but lives quite peacefully because its superior strength allows it to impose its own interests on its land. Anything short of that is not peace, but surrender to foreign dictates. And sure, if you succumb and submit to “israeli” hegemony, then you may be allowed to live in a state of non-war, but you will not live in peace, and you will definitely not have freedom, sovereignty, and independence.

    Posted by Nour | August 14, 2009, 11:36 am
  53. Ahlan wa sahlan ya Nour

    I may need a week to read your last comment, but I’ll try to get to it eventually.

    (For everyone else, Nour is an old buddy from my Syria Comment days. We agree on very little, but our debates are always animated and fun. PS: Nour is a man, not a woman.)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 14, 2009, 11:47 am
  54. lol. Thanks for clarifying that QN :-D.

    Posted by Nour | August 14, 2009, 12:02 pm
  55. @WorriedLebanese #53

    Great response, I appreciate it, especially this point:

    Don’t you find it strange that this ambiguous “defence strategy” we have doesn’t take into account the civilian population (no plans of evacuation, no plans to provide for them in case of bombing or invasion, no shelters, no alarm signals…).

    As for your second point about bloc dynamics in March XIV®… Do you believe that they still hold a theoretical majority?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 14, 2009, 3:40 pm
  56. Nour

    I hear what you’re saying, and as you know, I’m the first advocate of directing our energies at the long-term problems: education, illiteracy, poverty, economic planning, sustainability, etc.

    I also do believe that Lebanon should have some kind of deterrent capabilities. And you are exactly right when you say:

    Our goal is not to have a “peace agreement” but rather to have the strength to provide a peaceful environment in which our people can advance and progress freely.

    But, in my opinion, this conclusion begs the same old question: how is our desire “to provide a peaceful environment in which our people can advance and progress freely” achieved by the current strategy pursued by Hizbullah? I’m not an advocate of rolling over and playing dead. I’m an advocate of pursuing all options to achieve the goal that you phrased succinctly above.

    Why not make our demands very clear, in one voice? Why not hold a round of national dialogue talks focusing only on the issue of national defense and the objectives of the resistance, and emerge with a single Lebanese plan outlining what our demands are vis-a-vis peace with Israel?

    Peanut gallery, the floor is yours…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 14, 2009, 3:52 pm
  57. QN,

    I definitely agree that there should be a round of national dialogue talks for the purpose of forging a comprehensive, unified defensive strategy. But this has to be undertaken with seriousness regarding the need to build a formidable defense.

    You are correct in concluding that the current situation is not the ideal one, because ideally the state should be committed to building and sustaining a strong national military capable of detering any potential attacks on Lebanon. Unfortunately, however, our political elites, have historically refused to build a strong national army for fear of weakening their sectarian positions.

    Now, as you well know, my view of this issue goes beyond Lebanon, as I don’t believe that Lebanon, on its own, has the resources or the ability to be truly free, sovereign, and independent, and that this requires collective national effort, which is why I believe that national consciousness is so important.

    Posted by Nour | August 14, 2009, 4:07 pm
  58. QN, et al,

    Interesting discussion. Here’s my conservative, Jewish-American POV.

    – Lebanon SHOULD have a unified, national discussion concerning their security needs

    However, will Hezbollah start another war with Israel? Its this what Lebanon wants?

    If so, by all means go for it.

    OTOH, if the Lebanese do NOT want a war with the Israel, can they trust Hezbollah and Iran that they won’t start a war?

    IMHO, Israel’s strategy is not psychological or otherwise. It is clear. They have to retain a technological edge to make up for the greater number of combatants and the increasing technology that is coming into the region.

    Israel knows it isn’t going to throw Hezbolah out of Lebanon, so their goal (as AIG has stated) is to make it very painful for the Lebanese if they allow Hezbollah to do whatever they please.

    I offer this opinion to boast or gloat, but only to explain, perhaps, the Israeli POV.

    Certainly Lebanon can bolster their defences and bring in as much military equipment. But is this the priority in Lebanon? Are the border disputes that important? I think the Lebanese have to answer these questions before the next round of violence takes us all by surprise.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 14, 2009, 7:27 pm
  59. Sorry for the typo. It should read “NOT to boast or gloat”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 14, 2009, 7:30 pm
  60. Worriedlebanese,

    In #53 you state:

    “In all discussions, the analysis turns macro and people are seen as pawns that can be disregarded or moved around. And this is quite general, when talking about a “Comprehensive” Arab-Israeli agreement, Ras Beirut #49 dispatches the Palestinians of Lebanon as if they were a commodity. These people were born in our country, they have lived all their lives in our country, all their memories are in Lebanon, all their social network is in Lebanon. They might not speak of it for political and ideological reasons. But they have ties to the country that should be respected. I think it’s the only region on earth where refugees are discussed in that fashion. Upholding their right of return doesn’t mean threatening or ignoring their right to stay and be treated equally.

    Sorry for my tantrum. Some comments just drive me crazy! ”

    I would like to take the opportunity to clarify my point in #49 vis a vis the refugees issue in any potential negotiation with israel. What I stated was not a personal view or an endorsement at all about what the fate of the refugees should be, far from it. Rather, I was stating the facts on the ground as they stand today.

    The lebanese constitution today expilicitly
    prohibits the naturalization of the refugees. On top of that, by law, they are forbidden from owning real estate or engage in many professions. Pretty dismal situation to say the least from the refugees perspective.

    If the naturalization law is to be reversed, parliment will have to change the law, which requires a super majority Yes votes. Regardless of where one feels about the subject, I find it hard to believe that these votes can be obtained in parliment today.

    That is why I talked about the other alternative, since the naturalization option is not realistically available. Maybe I should have clarified that up front, so my comment would not be misunderstood.

    In all honesty, this issue should be debated nationally and in parliment. Just in case negotiation somehow appear at the door step, and Lebanon should at least be prepared to have a clear negotiation position on such a relevant issue.

    As it stands right now. Lebanon’s publicly stated position is the endorsement of the 2002 Beirut arab league one, that does include the right of return (with a little bit of flexibility) according to the wording.

    Preperation ahead of negotiation is a good thing.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 14, 2009, 10:28 pm

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