Stop Denying That Hizballah Controls Lebanon

Jan. 15 2018

When Saudi Arabia attempted to pressure the Lebanese prime minister Saad Harari to resign in November, the U.S. State Department, France, and the International Crisis Group for Lebanon (a body whose members include the U.S., the EU, Russia, and China) all condemned Riyadh’s “destabilizing” actions and stressed the need to protect Lebanon from the chaos that has seized much of the Middle East. These statements, writes Evelyn Gordon, simply preserve the fiction that Lebanon is not entirely under the thumb of Hizballah—itself a proxy of Iran—and in its present form is a major engine of regional instability:

[T]he West has shown no . . . concern for shielding the many Mideast countries which Lebanon’s de-facto ruling party has destabilized for years. Thousands of Hizballah troops have fought in Syria’s civil war, helping the Assad regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Hizballah also has troops in Yemen to support the Houthi rebels in that country’s civil war, and it may have been involved in firing missiles from Yemen at Saudi Arabia. It has trained Shiite militias in Iraq and fought alongside them. And, of course, it has built an arsenal of some 150,000 missiles—bigger than that of most conventional armies—for eventual use against Israel. . . .

Thanks to this fiction, . . . the West has repeatedly watered down sanctions on Hizballah to avoid harming Lebanon and also has repeatedly pressured other countries not to penalize Lebanon for Hizballah’s aggression. This has allowed Hizballah to wage its foreign wars without its own Lebanese constituency paying any price. If Hizballah knew its own citizens would suffer for its actions, it might think twice about foreign adventurism.

But aside from destabilizing other Middle Eastern countries, this Western policy is liable to boomerang on Lebanon itself. Serious observers currently rate another Hizballah-Israel war as somewhere between likely and inevitable. And because Hizballah has 150,000 rockets pointed at Israel’s civilian population, Israel would have no choice but to employ maximum force to end such a war as quickly as possible. Against a threat of that magnitude, protecting its own people would trump any international pressure for “restraint.”

The only way to prevent such a war is to reverse the Western policies that have enabled Hizballah to grow to its current monstrous proportions. This means exerting massive pressure on Hizballah, even if it also hurts Lebanon. . . . [I]t’s long past time to acknowledge that Lebanon is a fully-owned Iranian subsidiary and to treat it accordingly—not only for the sake of Lebanon’s neighbors but for the sake of Lebanon itself.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

 

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank