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Television Panel Discussion
Voice of America - Inter American Forum
Israel's Hamas Hezbollah Confrontation:
"Saving Private Ryan" or the "Clean Break" Plan?
Adriana Amat, Voice of America: Hezbollah's initial intention was to kidnap these two Israeli soldiers for a prisoner swap?
Grant Smith, IRmep: Absolutely.
They've had a history of, in the past for example the year 2000, of capturing
soldiers precisely to realize a prisoner exchange, particularly people in Israeli
Pedro Rodriguez Diario ABC de Espa�a : To me it looks like an amplified version of what happened in Gaza with Hamas last month (June) with the capture of a soldier. We're talking about the use of force, destruction, detentions, incursions, but with absolutely no results. In other words, Israel is applying the same response techniques that got it no results in Gaza to Lebanon.
Grant Smith, IRmep: I think there are very important events that everyone is overlooking. There is a movie called "Saving Private Ryan".
This is NOT "Saving Private Ryan".
The conflict in Gaza started on June 8 when the Israelis assassinated a Hamas military officer. Then on June 9, there was the terrible Israeli attack on a family picnicking on the Gaza beach in which eight people died. The entire Arab world watched video of a little girl running along the beach looking at the bodies of her family.
Hamas started launching rockets in response, with their home-made rockets against Israel in reaction to this violence. Never the less there were thirty more deaths on the Gaza side due to Israeli artillery.
Then on the 24th of June we have Israel crossing into Gaza and taking two Palestinian prisoners, names unknown, who have never been heard from again.
Finally on June 25 we have the Hamas attack and capture of corporal Shalit who everyone knows from the extensive news coverage.
So there were many events, much more complex than the simple capture of prisoners, on both sides. There is also a much larger story in Lebanon. In June, in the south of Lebanon the Lebanese Army captured a Mossad operative group of Abu Rafeh who had assassinated various people in Hezbollah in 2004 and 1999. So if one is only focusing on isolated events, you might think this is all about kidnapping. But really the conflict has been building on both borders.
Adriana Amat, Voice of America:
There's been talk about the diplomatic response of the US saying that it is too slow.
There are accusations that the US is waiting for Israel to attack Hezbollah as much
as it can for the US to act later. Do you agree?
So it is perfectly consistent that they don't want to move until there is a bigger conflict with Hezbollah. Unfortunately there are 300,000 people living in the southern zone, who are civilian, many who have nothing to do with Hezbollah. Unfortunately, in this type of war against guerillas, who have little fixed infrastructure, and are very difficult to find, it seems the air bombardments are causing more civilian casualties than against Hezbollah militants.
Adriana Amat, Voice of America: Will Condoleeza Rice's visit to the region alleviate the conflict a bit?
Grant Smith, IRmep : She is there to bolster something that's never happened before. The government of Saudi Arabia said the conflict was the fault of "elements" in Lebanon against Israel. This is the first time Saudi Arabia has ever said such a thing, usually there is silence or unconditional support. She is supporting regional Sunni-led governments to maintain this stance and develop a common front against Hezbollah.
She's not going there to negotiate a peace treaty.
Grant Smith, IRmep: No.
Some people are making some comparisons with World War I, and the assassination of
Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This is not the same.
Syria is the same. Syria helped the US a great deal after 9/11 in hunting down real terrorist groups, but the Bush Administration policy was to isolate them anyway according to doctrine. That's what the Bush administration has done, engaging in a "cold war" that is now heating up.
World War III? I don't think so. I don't think Israel plans to occupy Lebanon for any length of time because the price they paid in the 1980's and 1990's was high. We need to remember that Israel lost that war to Hezbollah. Domestic Israeli groups had to watch television scenes of Israelis dying every day in southern Lebanon until they were fed up with it and withdrew all troops.
Pedro Rodriguez Diario ABC de Espa�a: Some of the analysis we've seen proposes that the Israeli demonstration of force really reveals that it is weak, with a government for the first time in many years dominated by civilian officials, with little real military experience. And that this explains, perhaps, the spiraling show of force and unnecessary actions they've taken in these days.
Grant Smith, IRmep: Yes, that's a perspective. There's another perspective however, that says the military "response" started so quickly, that it was part of a preconceived plan. The targets, when one looks at the photos of the precision bombs that fell on the airport runways, the 42 bridges that were cut in matter of hours, cause others to say "no". There was targeting and intention to hit them to destabilize the "supporters" of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
I think Vladimir Putin was right when he declared there were unstated Israeli objectives being realized in the rapid response attack.
Adriana Amat, Voice of America: If you look at the situation in Lebanon, without taking sides, it is really sad that the Lebanese people lived through a civil war, then Israeli occupation, then Syrian occupation, then Syria leaves and now we have this conflict. If Israeli really does achieve its goals with Nasralla, the Hezbollah leader, who will take over the leadership, or will the movement fall apart, with the south falling into the hands of another Lebanese militia? What is the future of Lebanon?
Grant Smith, IRmep: I think that the idea that Israel is going to win against Hezbollah, a group formed as a response to the Israelis and the territory issues such as Sheba Farms, Gaza, the West Bank would be incredible. They are as difficult to root out as the FARC or ELN of Colombia, they are integrated into the population, but they are also providing social services, they are circulating through the whole country. Winning against Hezbollah would be a total bloodbath in Lebanon, a small country of 3 million where they have something like the support of 40% of the people. They are in the parliament through large and dominant groups.
I think this conflict is the price we have to pay
for not facing up to some other UN resolutions. Everyone is talking about the
resolution focused on the Syrian withdrawal and that there can't be militias (1559).
But there are also resolutions like 242 that Israeli troops can't keep occupying
the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. For not facing up to these territorial
rights issues, that generate a lot of support for Hezbollah and other groups, we're not
facing up to the real problems.
Grant Smith, IRmep: Sure. They say they don't have the strength, and that Hezbollah was too difficult to manage. Although the UN resolution said that (1559) there couldn't be any armed militias in the South, Hezbollah simply declared that it was the new "Lebanese Army of the South".
Unfortunately, the game of disobedience to international law is a game everyone is playing these days. Interpreting in different ways what is plainly stated, to whom resolutions apply, and not. Unfortunately, where there's no law, and no respect for international law, or the United Nations, we have these outcomes.
Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. (IRmep)
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