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Undernews: Why Peace In The Mid East Is Possible

Undernews Extracts: The Lebanon War – Post Ceasefire

Compiled by Editor Sam Smith



STEPHEN P PIZZO, NEWS FOR REAL - We've been here before, and I do mean "we," as in the west. The place was Ireland. The year was 1798, then 1803, and again in 1848, and again in 1867. The 45 years between 1803 and 1848 saw the Irish population mobilized in one of the first anti-colonialst mass movements in the history of Europe, demanding independence from British occupation.

Of course, the British refused and the struggle began. In 1916 the fight spawned the birth of the Irish Republican Army which began a campaign of urban terror that would stretch to the dawn of the next millennium.

The beginning of the end of that bloody era began in 1972, not on the field of battle, but at the ballot box.

"With the repudiation of violence in 1972, and its move from republicanism to Marxism, Provisional Sinn Féin became the political voice of the minority of northern nationalists who saw IRA violence as the means of forcing an end to British rule and institutionalised discrimination against nationalists..." - Wikipedia

Over the next thirty years Sinn Fein, as the non-violent political arm of the IRA, was not only able to win political offices throughout Northern Ireland but, more importantly, provided an IRA entity to which those who had pledged never "to negotiate with terrorists," could do just that, without looking like they were.

The rest is history. The IRA has now disarmed and the murderous, nearly century-long "troubles," in Northern Ireland are - it appears - finally over. . .

The British, and other western leaders, including the US, were able to "not talk to terrorists," by instead negotiating with Sinn Fein. Likewise the US, Europe and even the Israelis could open talks with both Hamas and Hezbollah's peacefully elected officials. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know - some of those guys carried guns before they went into politics. Well, I have news for you, more than few Sinn Fein officials earned their bones killing British soldiers too. And, least we forget, the Brits considered Jewish freedom fighters in British-occupied Palestine terrorists too. Which is why this is one of those rare cases where the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is actually constructive.)

There are other problems with this idea I'd like to acknowledge. The IRA had the good sense not to share its name with it's political arm. That provided greater cover and deniability for the "we will never negotiate with IRA terrorists," crowd.

It's the kind of diplomatic kabuki dance that everyone sees right through but, since the stakes are so high, pretend they don't.

Consequently it will be harder to create such a diplomatic fiction in regards to Hamas and Hezbollah, since the terrorists and their political arms of each are burdened by identical branding. Choosing the same names for their political parties was just plain dumb - something even the most mediocre political consulting firm would have told them, had they bothered to ask.

Still it can be done. The US and Europe can, and should, seize the existence of Hamas and Hezbollah's political entities as a way to open a channel with these to groups. Bush has lied so many times already - WMD, yellow cake, we are not spying on Americans... etc. etc.... that this one should be a piece of cake.

Here George. Copy this onto a 3 x 5 card:

"We are not talking to terrorists with blood on their hands. We are talking to the democratically elected members of the Palestinian and Lebanese people. We will never negotiate with terrorists. That's always been our position, it still is and always will be. The people we are talking to chose ballots over bullets. In other words, we are not talking to terrorists.". . .

By negotiating with the IRA's political wing a solution was finally achieved . . . Hardliners on both the Catholic and Protestant sides still consider themselves the aggrieved parties of the first part, and will go to the graves believing so. But the solution did give the people of Northern Ireland what they wanted -- peace.

Does anyone doubt that the majorities within Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan want the same? Peace. Of course they do. The question is how to achieve it and on what terms. Terms are required to settle any dispute. And terms require talks. . .

So the Jews and Muslims hate one another. We get that. But they don't hate each other any more than Ireland's Protestants and Catholics hated one another.

Peace in the Middle East is possible.



[Stratfor is a pro-Israeli intelligence service]

STRATFOR - An extraordinary thing happened in the Middle East this month. An Israeli army faced an Arab army and did not defeat it -- did not render it incapable of continued resistance. That was the outcome in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. But it did not happen in 2006. Should this outcome stand, it will represent a geopolitical earthquake in the region -- one that fundamentally shifts expectations and behaviors on all sides.

It is not that Hezbollah defeated the Israel Defense Forces. It did not. By most measures, it got the worst of the battle. Nevertheless, it has been left standing at the end of the battle. Its forces in the Bekaa Valley and in the Beirut area have been battered, though how severely is not yet clear. Its forces south of the Litani River were badly hurt by the Israeli attack. Nevertheless, the correlation of forces was such that the Israelis should have dealt Hezbollah, at least in southern Lebanon, a devastating blow, such that resistance would have crumbled. IDF did not strike such a blow -- so as the cease-fire took effect, Hezbollah continued to resist, continued to inflict casualties on Israeli troops and continued to fire rockets at Israel. Hezbollah has not been rendered incapable of continued resistance, and that is unprecedented.

In the regional equation, there has been an immutable belief: that, at the end of the day, IDF was capable of imposing a unilateral military solution on any Arab force. Israel might have failed to achieve its political goals in its various wars, but it never failed to impose its will on an enemy force. As a result, all neighboring nations and entities understood there were boundaries that could be crossed only if a country was willing to accept a crushing Israeli response. . .

What is clear is that, if the current outcome stands, it will mean there has been a tremendous earthquake in the Middle East. It is cheap and easy to talk about historic events. But when a reality that has dominated a region for 58 years is shattered, it is historic. Perhaps this paves the way to new wars. Perhaps Olmert's restraint opens the door for some sort of stable peace. But from where we sit, he was sufficiently aggressive to increase hostility toward Israel without being sufficiently decisive to achieve a desired military outcome.

Hezbollah and Iran hoped for this outcome, though they did not really expect it. They got it. The question on the table now is what they will do with it.



KAMAL DIB, DAILY STAR, LEBANON - The Lebanese educated middle class are asking Washington: "Why have you forsaken me?" as Lebanon's existence is bombed to smithereens. The current war is traumatizing Lebanon's Western-oriented middle class, as it witnesses the destruction of its hopes for a prosperous and independent Lebanon, as Israel, backed by the United States, systematically destroys Lebanon and places the destiny of 4 million Lebanese in serious jeopardy.

Members of the Lebanese middle class see themselves as open-minded believers in a Western-style secular democracy. They did not hesitate to make their views known that when Southern Lebanon was freed from Israeli occupation in 2000 it was time for Hizbullah to disarm. Many, including Shiites, have written articles critical of Hizbullah and its state-within-a-state in Lebanon. . .

Lebanese journalists, authors, academics, and public figures, who have worked for decades to cure the social ills that wracked Lebanon and are not fond of radical sectarian ideologies, will not accept to be at the receiving end of Israeli bombs that pretend to be helping them get rid of Hizbullah. There is a strong belief in Lebanon that disarming Hizbullah is better dealt with as an internal Lebanese matter through dialogue, as opposed to using violent means, especially by an outside power that will only strengthen the hand of the radicals and weaken the moderates. . .

Lebanon's middle class was at the forefront in 2005 of the country's insurrection against Syrian hegemony and the corruption of the Lebanese political establishment. The US administration was vocal in its support for the Lebanese uprising, and State Department officials spoke of a "Cedar Revolution." . . .

A year later, the naked truth is revealed to the Lebanese middle class: that the relentless Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, a sovereign nation with democratic institutions, did not generate any sympathetic reaction from the United States. The Lebanese were angry that the United States administration appeared to be heartless during four weeks of Israeli attacks that killed 1,000 citizens, wounded 4,000, and displaced 1 million people. The economic dimensions of the catastrophe were as devastating to Lebanon as the human loss: After 17 years and tens of billions of dollars in expenditure, Lebanon was beginning to return to a pre-1975 situation, but Israel has caused massive destruction to the country's physical infrastructure and to private property. This has practically sent Lebanon back to square one, with future costs of untold billions of dollars, plus a sharp decline in economic activity, including the loss of over $2 billion in tourism revenues. . .

People are now seeing the unfolding events in Gaza and occupied Iraq through different eyes. These are not events of liberation and democratization, but of occupation and self interest disguised as a war on terrorism. The Lebanese middle class, long resisting religious fundamentalism and totalitarian ideologies, is now disillusioned with a hypocritical Washington that would consent to bury the Lebanese alive and destroy their country.


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