In order to present a more comprehensive view of the crisis in Lebanon/Israel I invited Lebanese and Israeli friends to give their own perspective about the current war.
From Oren Entin, co-Founder of Integral Israel- Tel Aviv.
Since the war in Lebanon started, two characters in me are in constant struggle. One is the patriotic Israeli, an ex-soldier, who spent time in Lebanon and the West Bank and just wishes that his people would finally beat the “bad” guys. The second is a more complex adult who sees the big picture, is less emotional and wants to act smartly and carefully. I’ll begin by presenting the first perspective, which is closer to the point of view of the average Israeli.
This part of me sees things very clearly: Hezbollah’s attack on Israel was an unprovoked attack initiated after a new round of violence in Gaza where Palestinians were shooting Qassam rockets on civilians living in southern Israel. Both attacks, on Lebanon and Gaza, were targeting the IDF soldiers on the international borders, and also Israel civilians. It looked like Arabs saw the two pullouts (from Lebanon on 2000 and from Gaza on 2005) as a sign of weakness and as a result Israeli civilians were paying the price. This thought is unbearable to the Israeli mind.
This mixture of factors lead to full support from the Israeli population (including the Zionist left wing party of "Meretz") for a harsh response to deliver the message that anyone attacking Israel Will have to pay a heavy price. The average Israeli is generally against hurting Arab civilians, but in these two cases, Hamas and Hezbollah tried to take advantage of that sentiment and shot their missiles deliberately from populated areas. If Israel decided not to react it would mean that the blood of Israeli civilians is less important to the Israeli government than their own citizen’s blood.
Israelis are tired of living in a state of constant threat and war, and although they are not considered to be the calm and obedient type, this time the civil population of northern Israel made it clear to the government that they are ready to bear the missiles attack and to give the army all the time required to solve the problem and remove the Hezbollah missiles threats. Together with the civil support, the government also received a full support from the USA and G8 leaders, something which never happened before. That is why the government, IDF and civilians all feel that for the first time ever, they have the support of the world to act firmly against Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Now I’ll step out of this persona, and look at that the situation from a wider perspective. While I do agree that Israel has indeed the right to act against Lebanon, I think that being right and being wise is not the same thing. It is clear that Israel can't accept the threat on its northern and southern borders. But are the actions it chooses to follow going to solve it? Even IDF commanders agree this issue cannot be solved by military force only. The goals of this war are not very clear. At the beginning the stated goals were to get the captured soldiers back and remove the Hezbollah missiles threat from south Lebanon by forcing Lebanon’s army to take over control of the border in accordance with UN resolution 1559. These two goals cannot be achieved in a military way. Hezbollah will never release prisoners without negotiations and mutual prisoners change, and the Lebanese army, which consists of many Shiia Hezbollah supporters, cannot take control in south Lebanon from Hezbollah. Israel’s hope that the Lebanese government can put pressure on Hezbollah is futile, as in any country which knew so many internal conflicts and civil wars like Lebanon, it is always easier to unite against an external force than to start a war against the biggest ethnic group, which is part of the government and army anyway.
What can Israel do? Bombing Hezbollah forces into submission is a limited strategy because Hezbollah is a guerrilla force blended into the civilian population. As a result many civilians are killed, which strengthens support for Hezbollah, and erodes the international support Israel had at the beginning of this war.
If Israel wants to push back Hezbollah’s short range missiles threat from its northern border it must send many ground troops into Lebanon and not rely exclusively on the air force. But in this case the IDF will suffer many casualties, and even after controlling south Lebanon, Israel will have to stay there as occupier, or withdraw back and lose control again. After the eighteen traumatic years that Israel held south Lebanon, even the right wing in Israel hesitates to call for that.
Here is a different policy that Israel could have chosen to take:
1. Instant attack against Hezbollah without targeting Lebanon infrastructure.
2. Presenting an ultimatum to the Lebanese government to give back the captured soldiers and co-operate with UN resolution 1559, or else the Lebanese infrastructure will be targeted. Bombing and destroying can be done anytime, but shooting first and threatening after is not a good way to get cooperation
3. Acting immediately to get the G8 support for applying UN resolution 1559 by sending an International force that is strong enough to take the control over south Lebanon from Hezbollah
Although Israel’s response was just, it was very much the result of a wounded national ego. Two successful guerrilla attacks on the IDF which ended in captured soldiers are very threatening to a country which needs to have a strong army to survive in a hostile neighborhood. Israelis consider the death of a soldier as more severe than the death of an Israeli civilian because the soldiers are mostly young, and are generally called “our sons”. Another possible reason for that is the fact that actions against Israeli civilians occur almost daily while attacks on soldiers are less frequent. Israel’s new elected prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and defense minister, Amir Peretz, could not go against the policy of IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, and against public opinion.
Now it is the time for Olmert to reconsider his policy, especially because Lebanon is just a small side issue on the Middle East: The real problem does not lay in countries outside of Israel, like Lebanon, but with the millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank who are still fighting for their independence.
Olmert, who met with all the important Western leaders since he was elected, still hasn’t had a serious meeting with Abu Maazen, who is considered moderate Palestinian Leader
and is accepted as a peace partner even by the high Israeli standards. If Israel would be as skillful and determined in its diplomatic peace making efforts as it is in operating the IDF, peace, or at least long lasting cease fire is possible. Until then, human life in the Middle East will continue being valued way too cheaply.
Oren Entin is co-founder of Integral Israel (http://www.integralisrael.org/
From Tony Riachi, Beirut- Lebanon
Many Lebanese have kept their feelings, opinions, and actions to themselves and have not spoken out yet. My prayers are with all the innocent civilians that are paying a heavy price for the stupidity and recklessness of the irresponsible and evil gambler of innocent souls Mr. Hassan Nassrallah. Let us forget not his tactics! as he has done many times in the past and he has done it again today. His murderous and cowardice actions have resulted of yet another massacre in Qana. Firing missiles from civilian neighborhoods is not exemplary and Hezbollah should bear the responsibility of the outcome.
Voice your opinion and tell the world the truth! Israel has no good intentions; a manipulator of public opinion and Middle East policies of the US and its allies; a destructive force and a killing machine that seizes every moment to weaken its enemy, a reckless might that takes every advantage of its neighbors regardless at what price and whose expense. But, also lets not forget to tell the world the truth about Hezbollah. A Syrian accomplice that is giving Israel every reason and right to level off Lebanon, to commit its heinous crimes against the Lebanese civilians in the name of self defense and to continue its hostilities disregarding every international law and the international community at large. Both Hezbollah’s actions and Israel’s reactions are in favor of Syria’s impious agenda. Hezbollah is Syria’s puppet and evil doer; aiding Bashar Al-Assad achieves his 2005 promise to destroy Lebanon is not a lesser objective of Hezbollah - "Kill the people and burn the country" has become the motto and a common goal of Hezbollah and Syria! With Lebanon’s total destruction, Hezbollah can mark another milestone off of Syria’s EVIL to do list. What’s next?
If we, all Lebanese and only Lebanese, care about our country we will, in one voice, repeat Gibran’s Tueini’s oath "Al-Kassam"
. We will re-unite and get back on the street of Lebanon one hand, one spirit, and one nation. We should work relentlessly to make sure that Hezbollah lays down its arms, steps aside, and let the Lebanese Army do their jobs.
God Bless you and May God Bless Lebanon Free and IndependentTony Riachi, Beirut