Can Israel learn from this war on Lebanon?
American support may no longer be enough.
Israel's long-term future lies in connecting with its Arab neighbours, not a western superpower thousands of miles away
Monday August 14, 2006
THE GUARDIAN of LONDON
This has been a war that did not happen by accident. The kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah was merely the pretext, long since forgotten in the absurdly disproportionate response by the Israelis, and the death and destruction that their country has wrought on Lebanon. Israel has, throughout its short existence, lived by the sword, safe in the knowledge that its military power, as an honorary western nation, is far superior to that of its enemies. Israel has managed to justify this behaviour, in the eyes of the world (or at least the west), by two means: first, the insistence that its very survival always hangs by a thin thread; and second, the remorse felt by the west over the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust.
This one not won by Israel
Based on previous expectations, this was another war that the Israelis should have won. It was of their choosing, long in the planning and preparation; and from the outset they enjoyed the open support of the US. How wrong the Israelis have turned out to be. This is not a war they have won: indeed, as they have fallen so far short of their objective - the effective destruction of Hizbullah as a military force - it might well turn out to be a war that the Israelis have, in effect, lost. They surely expected that Hizbullah's resistance would crumble within a matter of days, but a month later Hizbullah appears to be as strong as ever, inflicting heavy casualties on the massive Israeli assault launched after the UN security council vote, its ability to fire rockets at Israeli cities little, if at all, impaired. Just as the US found that superiority in conventional arms was of little use in Iraq when confronted with urban and guerrilla resistance, rooted in the overwhelming opposition of the people, so Israel has discovered the same in Lebanon.
Serious setback for Israel & U.S.
The ceasefire that is due to come into force today represents a serious setback for both Israel and the US. Its terms represent a significant retreat on what was previously proposed. One should not be deluded by the Israeli offensive launched after the ceasefire agreement had been adopted: it was a last desperate attempt to gain advantage before hostilities are obliged to cease, an attempt to snatch some kind of victory from the jaws of defeat.
Israel must ardently seek peace with its neighbors
It is, in short, not a show of strength but a display of weakness. More importantly, the failure of the Israeli action against Hizbullah raises deeper questions about the means by which Israel has sought to govern relations with its neighbours, just as the failure of American policy in Iraq has brought into question the underlying precepts of neoconservative strategy. The common denominator has been a dependence upon, and belief in, the efficacy of military power above all else. Is it too much to hope that, at least in the longer run, Israel's failure in Lebanon will force a rethink among Israelis on the best means to secure their future?
A Fish out of water?
Israel, though geographically part of the Middle East, has never regarded itself as part of the region, politically, culturally or ethnically. It identifies itself with the west. And the west reciprocates. How else can one explain the intimate relationship that Israel enjoys with the US, or the fact that Israel competes in the Eurovision song contest and European football competitions? It is regarded as an honorary member of the west in the same way that Australia still is, or apartheid South Africa used to be. And the reason is not simply geopo