DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 15,21-28. Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."But the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed from that hour.
The EU's policy toward Syria: a costly wait and see approach-EUobserver.com. August 8/07
Analysis: fresh blow for Lebanese Government-Times Online. August 8/07
Only a political surge can save Iraq from a definitive fall into the abyss-By The Daily Star. August 8/07
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources
for August 8/07
The Nahr al-Bared Battle Claims Two more Soldiers-Naharnet
U.N. Helps Lebanon Farmers-Naharnet
Wahab: Aoun for President to Follow Lahoud's Path ... Or Vacant Office-Naharnet
Four Circles of Lebanese Christian Political Symbolism-Middle East Online
Government to Probe Phone Networking Set Up by Hizbullah
Lebanon uncovers secret Hezbollah phone network-Ya Libnan
Moussa urges Lebanon to focus on name of new president-Ya Libnan
Israelis warned of Hezbollah kidnap-France24
Troops capture weapons and ammunition in northern Lebanon, International Herald Tribune
Israeli Security cabinet meets on prospect of conflict with Syria-Ha'aretz
'There will be no Russian bases in Syria'-Jerusalem Post
Israel wants to improve UNIFIL mandate-Jerusalem Post
'Khalas," a New Group For Lebanon's Salvation-Naharnet
Fadlallah Attributes U.S. Intervention in the Region to Desperation-Naharnet
The Body of a Woman Journalist Missing in Lebanon Found in Kazakhstan-Naharnet
Berri 'remains committed' to timely presidential polls-Daily Star
Government to probe phone lines installed by Hizbullah-Daily Star
Army moves deeper into Nahr al-Bared, seizes weapons-Daily Star
Qatar gives $2 million to southern villagers-Daily Star
PLO appoints new commanders in Beirut, Sidon-Daily Star
Israeli warplanes buzz South, Chouf, Bekaa-Daily Star
US delivers 80 new humvees to armed forces-Daily Star
Israeli police arrest woman impersonating army officer-Daily Star
Civil-society campaign urges leaders to stop bickering-Daily Star
Tashnag says offers of compromise were snubbed-Daily Star
Lebanon telecom authority promises solution to DSL woes-Daily Star
Palestinian refugees lacking IDs live in double bind-Daily Star
Ecologists, government officials grapple with how to clean Lebanon's shore following last summer's war-Daily Star
Government to Probe Phone Networking
Set Up by Hizbullah
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said authorities would launch a "speedy" probe into the set up of a new phone line networking by Hizbullah in south Lebanon. Hamadeh said that Defense Minister Elias Murr, Justice Minister Charles Rizk and Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa will join in efforts to look into the matter immediately. Hamadeh revealed that the installation of underground cables, which run parallel to the state's phone system, had been "discovered by chance and following ample rumors" in the southern town of Zawtar al-Sharqieh in the Nabatiyeh district. "(The ministry) has discovered by chance that a new telephone network is being created along that of the state in Zawtar al-Sharqieh," Hamadeh said in a radio interview. He said that "technical reports" later showed that the work has expanded to reach Yohmor in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, with another wireless networking being set up between the port city of Tyre and Abbassieh as well as in other regions of the Tyre province. Hamadeh also uncovered similar works are underway in Beirut and the southern suburbs (Dahiyeh).
During a cabinet session on Monday, the ministers discussed what Hamadeh termed a "violation of the Lebanese sovereignty" and called for setting up a ministerial committee to investigate and settle the issue. Meanwhile, residents of Zawtar Sharqieh condemned in a statement the cabinet's move regarding their village.
"Residents of Zawtar al-Sharqieh were surprised by the government's measures designed to sidetrack the citizens from the real crises they are facing," the statement said. Beirut, 08 Aug 07, 06:44
Large Number of Weapons, Ammunition Seized in Nahr al-Bared
The Lebanese army seized a large number of weapons and ammunition in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared as troops further tightened the noose around Fatah al-Islam militants holed up for more than two months in the battered shantytown. "Troops were able to capture, as they advanced, a large number of weapons, ammunition and military equipment including dozens of rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades," the army said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
"This is in addition to a mortar, a number of shells, rockets and mines," it said. Also Tuesday, Fatah al-Islam militants fired two rockets from the Nahr al-Bared camp, located near the northern port city of Tripoli, at the nearby town of Deir Ammar but no casualties were reported, the state-run National News Agency reported.
The rocket attack came two days after a similar incident killed a Lebanese civilian and wounded another in the nearby town of Bebnine.
The army command also said Tuesday that one soldier was killed Monday, raising the number of troops who have died since the fighting erupted on May 20 to 133. In addition to the soldiers killed, an undetermined number of militants -- at least 60 -- and more than 20 civilians lost their lives.The government announced Monday that police killed the Fatah al-Islam deputy commander, Shehab al-Qaddour, who is also known as Abu Hureira. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said he was killed a few days ago by police in Tripoli. The army has refused to halt its offensive until the militants completely surrender, but the gunmen have vowed to fight to the death.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 08 Aug 07, 09:01
Fadlallah Attributes U.S. Intervention in the Region to Desperation
Lebanon's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric accused U.S. of intervention in Lebanon, considering it a part of a desperate attempt for victory in the region after its "failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine."Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was commenting on last week's announcement by U.S. President George Bush that his administration will freeze the assets of people deemed to be undermining Lebanon's government.
"America's intervention escalated in Lebanon in the recent period because of the American administration's need to guarantee a political victory," Fadlallah said in remarks distributed by his office. He added "the American administration is trying to achieve any gain in the shadow of the embarrassment hitting it because of its failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine after the failure of Israel's war on Lebanon and the retreat of America's project in the region." The Hizbullah-led opposition in Lebanon has been locked in a fierce power struggle with the Western-backed government of Fouad Saniora. The opposition's main demand has been the formation of a national unity Cabinet that would give the opposition veto power. Saniora, backed by the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the U.S., rejects the opposition's demand. Syria had significant control over Lebanon before its troops were forced to leave in 2005 because of international pressure following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many in Lebanon believe Syria was behind the killing -- a charge Syria denies. Bush's executive order targets people found to be helping Syria assert control in Lebanon or otherwise undermine the rule of law. (AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 08 Aug 07, 09:17
Khalas," a New Group For Lebanon's Salvation
Civil society activist groups and networks launched "Khalas," a campaign aimed at encouraging the feuding sides to resume national talks in an effort to end to the ongoing political impasse that has gripped Lebanon for the past nine months. "Khalas," Arabic for enough, was first mentioned during the mediatory visit of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to Lebanon. Kouchner visited Beirut weeks ago to help broker an agreement between the majority and pro Syrian opposition camps. He said in his last statement before heading back to Paris that Khalas campaign "will disclose the moods of the Lebanese community" and the will of its diverse sectors to live together in peace. The campaign will seek to gather thousands of signatures on a petition that will urge the participants to "assume the political responsibility" and abstain from "sectarian instigation" in public and private statements. Khalas will also organize events and protests to raise awareness against a political vacuum and the much-feared formation of two governments if a new president for Lebanon was not elected on time. Among the campaign founders was Kamel Mhanna, who represented the Lebanese civil society in the Paris-hosted Lebanon dialogue last month.(Picture courtesy from as-Safir daily newspaper) Beirut, 08 Aug 07, 12:10
The Body of a Woman Journalist Missing in Lebanon Found in Kazakhstan
Kazakh authorities said on Tuesday they have found the body of a woman journalist who went missing in Lebanon in 2004 in a mysterious case fuelling a feud within the Central Asian country's ruling family. Officials said the body of Anastasiya Novikova had been recovered from a secret grave in southern Kazakhstan and implicated Rakhat Aliyev, a former son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the episode. The deceased journalist was a distant relative by marriage of Aliyev and was a staffer of his television channel, NTK. The scandal comes as oil-rich Kazakhstan prepares for parliamentary elections on August 18 that are supposed to boost its international reputation and show that it is moving towards democracy. Interior ministry spokesman Bagdat Kozhakhmetov told reporters: "We exhumed the body and tests established that it is Anastasia Novikova.... The circumstances of the death have still to be determined."
In a bizarre twist, Kozhakhmetov said the body, which bore signs of multiple fractures, had been brought secretly to the ex-Soviet republic from Lebanon by people close to Aliyev, after she died in June 2004. It was not clear what she was doing in Lebanon. Kozhakhmetov said he believed investigators would prove that Aliyev's associates "buried her secretly in a place prepared in advance" in southern Kazakhstan. Aliyev is embroiled in a feud with the first family that has raised questions about the system of rule set up by Nazarbayev, who has run the country since Soviet times and is expected to receive massive backing in this month's elections.
The president's once powerful son-in-law is now in Austria fighting an extradition request by Kazakhstan where he is wanted on kidnapping charges.
He recently became divorced from Nazarbayev's eldest daughter as tension with the president reached breaking point.
Last week a letter demanding Aliyev's extradition was sent to Austria by Novikova's brother and the wives of two bank officials who had been allegedly kidnapped by Aliyev.Novikova was married to a cousin of Aliyev who worked in Kazakhstan's embassy in Vienna, where Aliyev until recently served as ambassador.
The cousin died in a car accident in Austria in 2005.(AFP) Beirut, 07 Aug 07, 18:55
Analysis: fresh blow for Lebanese Government
Nicholas Blanford of The Times, in Lebanon
The victory for Michael Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement in yesterday's by-election will disappoint Western backers of the Lebanese Government as it could further weaken the already-threatened administration of Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese Prime Minister.
With the difference in seats in Parliament between the Opposition and the Government extremely slender, every seat is considered crucial.
The result will also boost Syria, which had given its full backing to Aoun's candidate and which sees his party's alliance with Hezbollah as a way of increasing influence in Lebanon, and eventually bringing down the Government. However, despite all of this, the Lebanese Government still has reasons to take heart. Fundamentally, this is because Christian support for Mr Aoun, and his party's pro-Hezbollah direction, is weaker than it actually appears.
The evidence suggests that some two thirds of Christian Maronites did not actually vote for Mr Aoun's party - instead they voted for the Government's candidate in the by-election, Amin Gemayel. It appears to have been the pro-Syrian groups and the Armenians who secured the victory for Mr Aoun.
The slump in Christian support can be put down to some of his controversial strategic decisions over the last two years, since he won Parliamentary elections with an impressive 70 per cent of the Maronite Christian vote.
In particular, he took the unlikely and highly unusual decision to form an alliance with Hezbollah, which is a Shia Muslim organisation funded by Iran and backed by Syria. This has flummoxed many of his traditional Christian supporters, who recall Mr Aoun's previous speeches in which he sharply criticised Syrian involvement in Lebanon, and supported previous UN resolutions to disarm Hezbollah.
With that in mind, his alliance with Hezbollah looks like political opportunism in the extreme, and a bid to dispose of Fouad Siniora's Government at all costs.
It is an alliance that not only irritates some Christians, but also leaves many in Hezbollah feeling uneasy. Bearing in mind Aoun's previous anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah stances in the 1990s, many within the Shia movement do not trust him.
A sideline to today's election is undoubtedly Mr Aoun's personal desire to become Lebanese President, in elections which are due shortly.
He will claim that his party's by-election victory stands him in good stead, but the voting patterns in that victory suggest it may be very much in the balance.
Israelis warned of Hezbollah kidnap threat abroad
Send by e-mail Save Print Israel on Monday warned that Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah militia is seeking to kidnap Israelis who visit Muslim countries.
Israel's anti-terror headquarters issued a travel warning ahead of the Jewish holidays in mid-September, repeating its call not to travel to any Arab country.
The warning included Jordan and Egypt with its Sinai peninsula -- one of the most popular destinations for Israeli tourists. Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries to have signed peace accords with Israel. The warning said that there is "a severe potential threat" of kidnapping Israelis throughout the world by Hezbollah, with which the Jewish state fought a war a year ago after the militia seized two soldiers in a cross-border raid.
In 2000, Hezbollah snatched Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum after luring him to the United Arab Emirates. He was released in January 2004 as part of a prisoner exchange deal with the militia.
Conflict Between Zionists and Islamists
Jahanshah Rashidian (Iran/Germany)
August 7th, 2007
Since several generations, we have an unsolved conflict in the Middle East, the conflict of Israel-Palestine. The conflict resulted into several conventional wars and many acts of terrorism and violence in this region. The roots of animosities are not on the shoulder of one or another side, but both belligerent sides:
- In the case of Israel, since its existence in 1948, whoever governs in Israel, the policy is more or less influenced by Zionist ambitions. Zionism propagates the idea that the whole region is the Jewish sacred homeland, where allegedly the early Jewish nation originated over 3,200 years ago. Zionism is the first fundamentalist and extremist ideology of the region. It goes so far to claim that the entire region belongs to Israel. It explicitly ignores the rights of many vibrant communities who have been living there during the last 3000 years.
- The counter-pole to extremist Zionism is the advent of Islamism in Palestine and Lebanon, Islamists dream of destruction of Israel and creation of God’s state in its place. They regard the territory of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank as an inalienable “Islamic waghf” (Islamic assets), which can never be surrendered to non-Muslims.
It is true, the both Islamists, militant movements fight to push back Israel from their occupied territories, but at the same time sow seeds of Islamism in these territories. They do not intend to free their people, but to impose the yoke of a God’s state on this region. The God’s state dreamed by Hamas is derived from a dictatorial belief system; the one which is now largely rejected by a growing majority of Iranians.
Despite that the Islamic revolution of Iran failed, the Islamic radicalism of which it was a projection, continues to be an aggressive ideology and imposes problems for the entire region. What now bothers all Palestine-loving people is the future of this land. In other words, not only Israeli occupation, but also a take-over of Islamists in Palestine is a serious alarm for Palestine. The international community must help Palestine to attend its deserved rights of independence, while rejecting and isolating the rise of Islamism.
The plague of Islamism in Palestine Islamism was reborn with Hamas, founded in 1987 in Gaza by both Shaikh Ahmad Jassin and started its existence with its jihadi attacks on both military and civil targets in Israel.
Though Hamas is a Sunni organisation, but is a protégé of the IRI; it follows a strict charter which is not different from IRI’s official policy towards Israel. According to this charter the State of Israel must be wiped off the region and replaced with an Islamic state. Furthermore, Hamas will not accept any non-Islamic state in Palestine.
Hamas, like all Islamists, opposes any peace process with Israel; it regards such a process a “betrayal of God’s will”. This is its fundamental difference with the PLO which in 1988 recognised Israel’s sovereignty.
Hamas’s last success in the Palestinian elections is not a consequence of the rise of Islamism linked to the Iranian revolution, but rather a related reaction to the deep frustration of Palestinians who were disappointed from the West. This frustration is characterises by the continued postponement in the resolution of Palestinian conflicts, US foreign policies in their absolute support for Israel in its occupation of “Islamic” territories.
The Islamists, wherever they are, guided or inspired by the IRI, stage the question of state at the middle of their battleground. The legitimacy of such a state cannot be ignored. Therefore in the case of Palestinian independence, the PLO or any non-Islamist political force will not be for Hamas in the legitimate position to govern.
The second IRI’s proxy-movement in this region is Hezbollah. It was formed in 1982 by the IRI’s officials and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. It was to import the “Islamic” revolution of Iran in the region. The movement was logistically helped to fight Israeli occupation following the 1982 Lebanon war. Hezbollah’s ideology is based on the Shiite Islam, specifically in the concept of absolute power of supreme leader or “Welayat-e-Faqih” put forth by Shiite Islam in Iran.
Although, Hezbollah is considered by the West as a terrorist organisation, it is a recognised political party in Lebanon, where it has now two ministers in the government and can even influence the coming president elections. For the moment, the Lebanese government rejects Hezbollah’s slogans: “God is the target, the Prophet is the model, the Koran the constitution, jihad is the path and death for the sake of God is the loftiest of the wishes”.
Hezbollah’s strength is enhanced by the military and financial backing of the IRI. Terror is its principal weapon and Islamism its only ideology. It follows a jihadist and Islamist policy dictated by IRI’s officials. Though, the movement claims that its goal is not to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon, but the double standards of its allegations show that Hezbollah has realised that Lebanon is the only Arab country which has not been very affected by Islam. The majority of Lebanese have no close ties with Islamic traditions and are horrified by the advent of the Mullahs who imposed an Islamic regime in Iran. The country has been long a paradise of tourists with all non-Islamic entertainments and a secular way of life.
Lebanon with only 40 percent Shiites is not a cosy cradle of Mullahs. Hezbollah has taken this fact into consideration; therefore, a God’s state, on the IRI’s model, is not officially demanded. However, it claims that an Islamic state requires the consent of the people, and since Lebanon remains a religiously and ideologically heterogeneous society, their political platform favours the introduction of an Islamic state in Lebanon by non-militant means
All trilateral parts of conflicts, Hamas, Hezbollah and Zionism, reject constantly peaceful solutions. All of them believe that Palestine is a consecrated land for their future generations and only so it must exist until Judgement Day. If all of them are at the height of their radicalism, they will gender an eternally vicious spiral of war and violence. The two Islamist movements of Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon are along with aggressive Zionism the main obstacle for peace in this region.
The two antagonistic poles have different charges and sacred altars. Neither Zionist sacred expansionism nor Islamist God’s state can guarantee peace and co-existence in this region.
It is to mention that Israel is implicitly authorised by the US to continue its animosity not only against Islamist groups, but also the legitimate rights of Palestinian.
Now, the least the international community is to encourage both sides to achieve peace and co-existence based on the UN repeated resolutions and bilateral agreements. If this conflict is to be stopped, the international community must defend the historically rights of Palestinians to install their UN proposed state. The Lack of an international consensus can be interpreted as a green light to continue the conflict.
What concerns Israel and Palestine, a durably peaceful co-existence of all peoples in the region can be guaranteed when only the democrats and seculars are the official peace-makers of both sides.
A necessary conference - with impediments in tow
By Eli Podeh
American President George Bush's call for an international conference in the autumn has, on the face of it, created a diplomatic horizon. The overt diplomatic arena, and apparently also the covert one, is teeming with activity while the American patron is trying to arrange a gathering that will be suited to all its participants. This conference is likely to be the finale of the Bush era, and therefore, from the American point of view, it must succeed.
First and foremost, Bush was motivated to initiate an international conference to compensate for the continuous American failures in the Middle East. Quite possibly the post-Saddam era Middle East is neither more stable nor more secure. The opposite is true: the anarchy in Iraq; the strengthening of Iran and of the Shi'ites in the Arab world, including Hezbollah; the rise to power of Hamas in Gaza; and the continued growth of Al-Qaida cells - all prove that the region still has the potential to threaten the world order. Moreover, beyond considerations of prestige, the issue of the continued flow of oil at reasonable prices is most important to the West, while, in effect, the price of a barrel of oil is rising daily. In view of all these concerns, progress in solving the Israeli-Arab conflict is likely, according to the American concept, to assist in lessening the threats in other sectors and to increase regional stability. The international conference, therefore, is a tool for providing momentum to the diplomatic negotiations in the hope this will lead to progress in solving other problems in the Middle East. The idea of a conference is not a bad one. It ensures that the regional agenda will not be fixed and ruled by radical Islamic elements. It is a convenient opportunity for the moderate voices in the Arab world to speak together - both openly and clandestinely - to battle those elements that even in their eyes are considered dangerous. Indeed, the visits to Israel of the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers as representatives of the Arab League (even though they were not officially portrayed this way); the meeting of foreign ministers from Arab states in Egypt; the visits of Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates to the region; and the United States arms deal with Saudi Arabia, all reveal an extraordinary diplomatic momentum that is aimed at preparing the ground for the international conference.
Numerous signs indicate that the Saudi kingdom will be represented at the conference at the price of the $20 billion American-Saudi arms deal. No doubt, the participation of the Saudis at this conference is most vital, as it will grant Islamic legitimacy to any move. Saudi Arabia has an interest in moving forward a conference of this type, strengthening its status in Washington as the most important Arab ally and its status in the Arab world. The conference also constitutes a natural continuation of the Arab peace plan that began at as Saudi initiative in 2002.
At the same time, the conference also raises quite a few difficulties. Apparently the U.S.and Israel are determined to focus on the Palestinian track, and to make progress on this track, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is currently proposing the negotiation of an agreement on principles only, which will form the basis for future talks on a final-status solution. In this way, Olmert is returning to the well-established Israeli pattern of preferring negotiations on the Palestinian track to making progress on the Syrian track.
This preference, which is being made in an open and crude fashion, may once again push Syria toward radical demands. In reality, the Syrian policy is at present moving along two parallel tracks: One is the call for peace negotiations with Israel; and the other is intensive contact with Iran and with Hezbollah. These two lines are not mutually exclusive but rather are aimed at complementing one another: The strengthening of the alliance with Iran, the funding of arms purchases from Russia and the operation of Hezbollah are all intended to serve as means of strengthening Syria's bargaining power vis a vis the U.S. and Israel.
Hints about clandestine Israeli-Syrian negotiations through a third party have flourished recently. Even though this channel has so far not produced results, Israel and the U.S. must not alienate Syria and leave it watching the international conference from afar. If it is left out, Syria will promote difficulties in terms of holding the conference and may even try to torpedo it. It is worth remembering that the Arab peace plan, which will undoubtedly form an important basis for the conference discussions, also includes a reference to the Syrian and Lebanese arena.
The Palestinian track is also likely to lead to many difficulties. Unlike the past, when the Palestinians had an agreed-on and elected representation, the current division between two leaderships - Fatah and Hamas - does not augur well. Any progress with elements in the Palestinian Authority that recognize Israel could come up against a veto from Hamas, which represents a large segment of the Palestinian population. The overt and callous attempt also on the part of the U.S. and Israel to strengthen Abu Mazen (PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas), even if it helps him in the short run, is likely to turn into a double-edged sword in the long run. Hamas could turn for help to regional elements that are interested in torpedoing any diplomatic initiative - including Syria if it is left out in the cold - and could denounce any agreement Abu Mazen might make with Israel as "betraying" the Palestinian cause or cause difficulties with its implementation if it does not torpedo it completely.
The hope is that a move with a large number of participants under a pan-Arab aegis will grant legitimacy to any diplomatic process and will push Hamas into a corner. At this stage, the organization, it seems, has not yet regained its strength after the shock it experienced following its success in gaining control of Gaza and as well as the shock from the swift countersteps adopted by Abu Mazen. Apparently Hamas is still weighing its options. In theory, Hamas could allow Abu Mazen a certain diplomatic leeway on the assumption that he would get for Hamas what it could not get for itself unless it renounced the principle of non-recognition of Israel. Hamas may hope that eventually it would be able to gain control also in the "liberated" West Bank.
The current format of the conference does not indicate that the Lebanese track will be taken into account. There is a struggle now in Lebanon that symbolizes the struggle in the entire Middle East. The upcoming presidential elections will face off candidates who are being supported by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah and candidates who are identified with the camp that opposes these forces, with the division cutting across ethnic groups.
The exclusion of Lebanon from the conference was done perhaps out of considerations of not wanting to escalate the already shaky internal situation there, but just as the West tries to strengthen Abu Mazen in various ways, so it is worthwhile strengthening Fuad Siniora's pro-Western government by inviting it to the conference. Any resolution that is adopted by the conference will enjoy the legitimacy of almost all the Arab states and in this way will be able to strengthen the chances of its implementation inside Lebanon, where Hezbollah can be expected to oppose it.
Despite all these difficulties, and despite all the risks, the conference must be held. In an article in Haaretz a few weeks ago, I proposed that a regional conference be called, and that it be split up into several tracks, just like the Madrid Conference in 1991. A conference of this kind could, on the face of it, focus on the Palestinian track, as it seems to be doing now, but focusing on this track alone, which is tied up not only with Israeli-Palestinian problems, but also mainly with intra-Palestinian problems, increases the chances that the conference will fail, a situation that would undoubtedly cause the region to heat up and provide additional support for radical Palestinian forces. Therefore it is preferable to expand the circle of Arab countries that are participating.
Finales do not carry a message for the future but rather sum up a period and grant a sense - however fleeting - of elevation of the spirit. But all the participants are arriving at this finale tired and worn-out. One hopes a conference will succeed at least in creating a momentum that will constitute a convenient infrastructure for a more daring American leader, one who will have better success at pulling the wagon of Middle East negotiations up the steep hill