Hizballah Tightens Its Grip on Lebanon as U.S. Policy Remains Confused

As part of its recently announced strategy for confronting Iran, the White House declared its commitment to “supporting legitimate state institutions in Lebanon” and to exposing the “nefarious behavior” of the Iranian proxy Hizballah in order to help bring about its loss of “political legitimacy” and its popular support. In practice, however, this means the U.S. will continue its aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), despite the fact that it has been thoroughly infiltrated by, if not subordinated to, the terrorist organization it is supposed to restrain. Tony Badran sees in this statement only official confusion:

[A]s the administration sees it, supporting the LAF is part of a strategic messaging or narrative campaign of sorts, which presumably will contrast Hizballah’s illegitimate armed status with the legitimate forces of the state—even as Hizballah and its allies dominate the state. Somehow, and over an undetermined period of time, after it’s been thoroughly exposed and with its political legitimacy—whatever that means—in tatters, then presumably Hizballah will disarm. . . .

Rather remarkably, since [the current policy toward the LAF] was devised a decade ago, [it] has never had a clear, concrete, or consistent objective. . . . If you build up the Lebanese state, [the reasoning went], it can act as a “counterweight” to Hizballah or “reduce” its power. A strong LAF will “eclipse” Hizballah. Better still, building up the LAF would “strip Hizballah of its argument” to maintain its armed status, as though this were a high-school debate competition. . . .

In the meantime, the LAF’s relationship with Hizballah has only grown closer, and Hizballah’s control of the state and its institutions has tightened.

Badran suggests some concrete demands the U.S. can start making of Lebanon, among them:

The LAF needs to begin intercepting Hizballah weapons shipments. . . . Now that the LAF is deployed on the northern and eastern Lebanese borders—the land routes through which Iran transfers weapons to Hizballah [via Syria]—it needs to demonstrate willingness and capability to intercept these arms shipments. . . . Doubtless, such an effort cannot be a one-off show for the cameras. It must be credible, verifiable, and sustained.

There’s a caveat here: the Lebanese government and the LAF are sure to use the deployment on the eastern border, and the U.S. investment in it, to get Washington to pressure Israel to refrain from striking Hizballah convoys in this sensitive area. The U.S. should be aware of this trap and should reject any such potential appeals from the Lebanese government.

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More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat