LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 3,7-12. Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people (followed) from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God."He warned them sternly not to make him known.
Latest News Reports The Daily Star For 19/01/07
Saniora Wants State-To-State Relations with Iran-Naharnet
Lebanon, Cyprus Agree on Undersea Border-Naharnet
UN chief concerned that Lebanon has not approved international ...International Herald Tribune
South Lebanon villagers have minor confrontation with UN ...International Herald Tribune
UN: Lebanon has not approved tribunal-Pioneer Times-Journal
Official: Iran not to turn Lebanon into battleground with the USA-Al-Bawaba - Amman,Jordan
Hezbollah image suffers in south Lebanon village-Khaleej Times
Image of Hezbollah damaged in south Lebanon village-Ya Libnan
US: Bush Moves To Contain Iranian Influence-RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
Bishops seek common guidelines for all Christian political leaders-AsiaNews.it
Bakhit Receives Lebanese Prime Minister-Jordan News
Canada's Foreign Minister
LCCC: Canada's Foreign Minister Peter MacKay will be on a Middle East tour as from today. His visit will not include Lebanon and Egypt as was previously announced. He will be visiting at the present time only Jordon, Palestinian Territories and Israel.
The speaker outcast - or just disarmed?
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Spare a sardonic thought for Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Only last summer he was being feted by March 14 for having helped the Cabinet majority railroad Hizbullah into approving a Lebanese Army deployment to South Lebanon and endorsing Security Council Resolution 1701; now they're depicting him as the scoundrel of the moment, increasingly marginalized for failing to hold a parliamentary session to approve the mixed tribunal in the Hariri assassination. Oh when that trapdoor opens.
Berri has done himself few favors in recent months. He alienated Hizbullah and its secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, during the summer war, but also when he seemed to be trying to open an independent line to Iran last November. As you might recall, he had just wrapped up a series of national dialogue sessions and flew to Tehran for a conference. While he was there the Shiite ministers resigned. Berri initially declared that the government remained constitutional, but then abruptly backtracked - under Iranian pressure, some speculated. This angered the majority, and in a matter of days the speaker was sitting atop the detritus of a failed dialogue that he had sponsored, with Hizbullah and March 14 united on a single thing: that it did no good to trust Nabih Berri.
For a time, after the opposition descended on Downtown Beirut in protest, it looked like Berri might devise a new role for himself. Who else could play middleman to help break the deadlock? That was too optimistic a reading of the speaker's capacities. By then, Hizbullah was unwilling to grant him any of the leeway it had during the July-August conflict. The majority, meanwhile, was still only interested in seeing whether Berri would summon Parliament to vote in favor of the Hariri tribunal. Caught in a vise, the speaker discerned a faint ray of hope in the Arab League proposal peddled by Secretary General Amr Moussa. And what did the normally cunning Berri do? He tied a rope around his neck and leapt.
Moussa sought to promote a package deal that, among other things, would have formed a new government with 19 ministers from the majority, 10 from the opposition, and one independent. The idea was to prevent the majority from imposing its writ by a two-thirds vote, while denying the opposition veto power. The majority also agreed to the creation of a committee of judges to discuss amendments to the draft tribunal proposal. Berri, not wanting to oversee a vote in Parliament on the tribunal, set a condition for his acceptance: that the amended draft be returned to the new government for approval. This effectively denied the majority a means to pass a proposal with which the opposition disagreed. Suddenly, Berri became enemy number-one for March 14, but also angered Moussa and his patrons in Cairo and Riyadh.
That wasn't all. In the period between Christmas and New Year, Berri came up with a plan of his own to resolve the crisis, one that proved to be dead on arrival. Walid Jumblatt dismissed it as "the latest merchandise," and Moussa saw the scheme as an underhanded effort to supplant his own ideas. The Arab League secretary general reacted by indefinitely delaying his return to Beirut. It was no coincidence that last Monday the Kuwaiti newspaper As-Siyassa, citing an adviser to Siniora, spoke of the possibility of Saudi Arabia's hosting a reconciliation conference on Lebanon, at which Berri would not be invited. The likelihood of that happening is negligible; after all, Berri represents Parliament. Still, the leak was designed to warn that the speaker may become irrelevant.
Berri is a target because the majority views him as the weakest link in Syria's effort to derail parliamentary approval of the Hariri tribunal. March 14 politicians will admit he has been threatened - but everyone has, they promptly add. That Berri remains Syria's man is hardly
surprising for anyone who has followed his decades-long political gymnastics. But more disturbing for the speaker, Saudi Arabia and Egypt apparently regard this as a problem when dealing with him. The Saudis are said to oppose bringing Syria into any discussion of Lebanon. If that's true, then Berri did himself few favors by telling As-Safir on Saturday, after meeting with Saudi Ambassador Abdel-Aziz Khoja, that "any efforts exerted to bring about a breakthrough in Saudi-Syrian relations will speed up the opportunities for a resolution in Lebanon, before it is too late."
This kind of talk, particularly Berri's recent statement that Lebanon is "a time-bomb preparing to explode," is open to various interpretations. Some see the comments as a threat; others, more benignly, assume the speaker is playing up a sense of impending doom to pave the way for his return as mediator. The visit by Amal representatives to the Phalange headquarters on Tuesday lends credence to the latter view. But Berri, like Nasrallah, is paying a heavy price for his alliance with Syria, and more specifically for Syria's refusal to grant its Lebanese comrades any latitude to negotiate what, for the Assad regime, could be a less dangerous tribunal framework.
Difficult times lie ahead for Berri. The parliamentary majority has already signed a petition asking President Emile Lahoud to open an extraordinary session of Parliament. The decision is binding on Lahoud, but Berri has yet to transmit the request to Baabda. If the speaker gets over this hurdle, in late March he must convene the first regular session of Parliament for 2007. If a parliamentarian formally asks that the tribunal law be dealt with as "fast-track" legislation, Berri, at least according to a member of the Hariri bloc, must put it to a vote. In addition, Article 44 of the Constitution allows the majority to hold a vote of confidence in the speaker two years after legislative elections, in the first regular annual session. If he loses by a two-thirds margin, Berri can be replaced.
These maneuvers are unlikely to change Berri's behavior, get the tribunal approved, or bounce the speaker. However, they are politically embarrassing. One thing must be dawning on Berri: It was the March 14 leadership that was instrumental in returning him to power last year. Having lost the majority's backing and little trusted by Hizbullah, the speaker must be wondering if he's gone beyond his expiry date. More pertinently, Berri must sense that he may be the latest target in a broader effort to dismantle what remains of the Syrian order in Lebanon.
***Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
Hizbullah needs to show it can be magnanimous in victory
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Editorial-THE DAILY STAR.
The resignation of the Israeli military's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, sends several important messages to members and supporters of Lebanon's government, as well as to the opposition forces arrayed against them. Halutz's departure stems directly from his handling of the summer 2006 war with Lebanon, so despite all the devastation and loss of innocent life incurred by the Lebanese, this country can legitimately be said to have "prevailed" politically - if only by having denied a traditional victory to the other side.
The government and its allies can learn from this some positive lessons in how to inspire and how to persevere. Hizbullah was able to do precisely that as it absorbed multiple blows from the region's most vaunted military machine, dodged many others, and emerged with both its structure and its core support largely intact. This also raises a question, though, about the government and its supporters: Why are they so reluctant to acknowledge the achievements - costs notwithstanding - realized by the resistance?
For Hizbullah the teachings are very different and more far-reaching. Halutz's resignation tacitly confirms Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's repeated declarations of victory, but it also points up a strength of Israel's political thinking that is glaringly absent from Lebanon's in general - and Hizbullah's in particular: an ability and a willingness to self-assess and self-correct. That Hizbullah has inherited this defect from the environment in which it grew up is evident from a question that many Lebanese are asking with increasing alarm: If the resistance truly sees it itself as triumphant, why has it not endeavored to be a more magnanimous victor?
It is true that wars have historically engendered popular demand for various forms of sweeping economic and/or sociopolitical reform, even in countries that have inflicted total and unquestioned defeats on their foes. It is also true that Hizbullah's primary constituents are Shiites, unfair treatment of whom was and remains a cornerstone of Lebanese statecraft.
What raises questions about Hizbullah and its opposition partners, therefore, is neither the moral rectitude of their insistence on change nor the logical strength of their arguments. Instead, it is the manner and pace at which they seek to impose their demands on a perennially unstable country still trying to recover after the bloody conflict with Israel last summer. Since the resistance provided the enemy with a pretext for its deadly and destructive assault, many Lebanese would prefer that it demonstrate more forbearance to other parties. While the Israelis have answered the question about who won the war and begun to punish those who lost it, Hizbullah's challenge is to ask itself why it has alienated so many of its compatriots despite having led the way to victory.
New clash reported between villagers, Spanish troops
By Iman Azzi - Daily Star staff
Thursday, January 18, 2007
BEIRUT: Residents of the Southern village of Zawtar Gharbieh clashed with Spanish peacekeeping troops taking photographs in the area on Wednesday, the National News Agency (NNA) said. A spokesperson for the Spanish contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) acknowledged that the troops were in the area but said they were not there as part of a patrol unit.
The NNA report said the Spanish peacekeepers arrived in the village in two Humvees and got out of their vehicles carrying cameras.
Zawtar Gharbieh is located north of the Litani River, an area in which UNIFIL is not mandated to patrol under any of the UN Security Council resolutions relating to its establishment and operations.
The NNA report said several of the villagers were angered by the UNIFIL presence and shouted at the troops and tried to seize their cameras for fear they were scouting for arms caches.
UNIFIL spokesperson Liam McDowall confirmed the Spanish troops were in Zawtar Gharbieh on Wednesday, but insisted they were there for what he described as a routine in-house logistical evaluation.
"I can confirm that Spanish troops were in the area. They were assessing the access and supply routes for the Spanish headquarters," McDowall told The Daily Star, but he could not provide details of the number of troops or vehicles. "We don't operate north of the Litani River. It wasn't a patrol in terms of any operation."
McDowall had no information on the reported clash.
The Spanish headquarters is located in Marjayoun. Spain has deployed nearly 1,300 troops as part of a beefed-up UNIFIL that came into being as part of the cease-fire that ended the summer 2006 war with Israel. It is the third largest contributor of troops after Italy and France.
Residents in Southern villages have on two previous occasions accused members of the Spanish contingent of attempting to conduct house-to-house searches for weapons. UNIFIL has consistently denied such allegations. - With NNA
Tags: Middle East, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Nuclear, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Michel Hayek, Bush, Iran, Saddam, Palestinian, Hamas, Fouad Sanyoura, Hariri, Downtown Beirut
Abbas to meet Lebanese, PLO officials in Beirut
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to arrive in Beirut on Monday to meet with Lebanon's top officials. However, the two-day visit may be extended to three days, the Central News Agency said on Wednesday. Abbas is expected to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and President Emile Lahoud while in Lebanon. He will also receive several Palestinian officials at the Metropolitan Hotel and have lunch at the Palestine Liberation Organization bureau in Beirut with Abbas Zaki, the PLO representative in Lebanon.
Tags: Middle East, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Nuclear, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Michel Hayek, Bush, Iran, Saddam, Palestinian, Hamas, Fouad Sanyoura, Hariri, Downtown Beirut
The shortfalls of Lebanon's electoral system
Country has yet to adopt an election law that adequately represents its diverse population
By Abdo Saad - Daily Star/Thursday, January 18, 2007
Study by Abdo Saad
Each time parliamentary elections draw near in Lebanon, the question of reconsidering the electoral law is raised and a new campaign is launched with the aim of creating a new electoral law to replace the previous law, which typically favored one party or group of parties while curtailing another.
By international standards there are two recognized electoral systems: majority and proportional, with their ramifications. In all civilized countries majority electoral system relies on one vote. However, Lebanon adopts a majority electoral system along with multiple seat districts and collective votes, whereby the voter has the right to vote for a number of candidates equal to the number of seats in the same electoral district. Very few countries apply this system and they exist only in the Third World.
Since the creation of the Lebanese Republic in 1943 and with the issuance of the first electoral law under independence and up to now the Lebanese have experienced all sorts of electoral districts, starting with the large districts and reaching the small ones such as the single-member constituency, the two-member constituency and the three-member constituency of 1957. Yet this did not result in fair popular representation; it rather produced civil disturbance that culminated in the 1958 crisis.
The Lebanese also tried the qada as an electoral district between 1960 and 1972, but this formula failed to produce fair representation. Instead it led to a fierce Civil War in 1975. After 1992 we tried the large and the middle-sized districts, which gave rise to a corrupt political class. The net result of all these experiments has been the consolidation of backwardness in the political performance of both voters and politicians.
It is worth mentioning that Lebanon is the only democratic country that adopts such a bizarre and objectionable electoral system. In our era this system is applied in only six countries in the world, including Lebanon and Syria, out of the 211 countries that hold elections.
There is no exaggeration in our consideration that the majority-vote system, based on small electoral districts or the qada, has contributed to continuous political instability in Lebanon and plunged the country into two civil wars, either by excluding political forces from parliamentary representation or by failing to enable them to achieve such representation.
The defects inherent in the majority system
After 1992 one of the major reasons for political and social instability and for the repeated financial and economic crises Lebanon has witnessed is the mummification of the electoral system, and restricting the change to the size of the electoral districts without changing the basis of the electoral system itself at least once. The flaw inherent in the Lebanese electoral system is not related to the size of the electoral districts; but rather arises from the voting system now in operation in Lebanon. This system is based on multiple-seat districts that entitle the voter to vote collectively, i.e. each voter has the right to vote for a number of candidates whose number equals that of the seats in the district. The main problem lies here and not in the size of the district
In addition this system has not been modernized in order to adapt it to the social constituents of Lebanon and to the aspirations of the Lebanese people. Therefore the main problem with the electoral law does not lie in the size of the districts; it rather lies in the voting system, as mentioned above. Indeed the majority electoral system is bad even if it is applied in the smallest districts. As the districts get smaller nonpolitical factors such as tribalism, confessionalism and sectarianism, gain more importance. This system reaches the utmost evil when it is adopted in middle-sized and large-sized districts, because as the district expands the political and social rights of minorities are compromised.
In general, the majority electoral system is unfair despite its simplicity. In sum it is unethical. In fact, in the last elections and specifically in Mount Lebanon's third district, one list got 53 percent of the votes and won all the seats accordingly, while the opposing list did not get any seat although it got 47 percent of the votes. In the second district of the North one list got 57.5 percent of the votes and won all the seats while the opposing list that got 42.5 percent of the votes did not win any seat. In the 2000 elections and specifically in the second district of the North one of the lists got 43 percent of the votes and won 89 percent of the seats. In the 1996 elections 70 percent of winner candidates won their seats with less than 50 percent of the votes. In the district of Beirut, (late Prime Minister Rafik) Hariri's list won 36 percent of the votes and gained 79 percent of the seats. In the district of Bekaa the list of ruling authorities won 38 percent of the votes and gained 91 percent of the seats. In the district of Metn the list headed by then-Interior Minister Michel Murr won less than 45 percent of the votes and gained 88 percent of the seats. Furthermore in the district of the north 18 candidates won the elections with the number of votes ranging between 22 percent and 31 percent of the total number of voters. In Bekaa district 14 candidates won the elections with the number of votes ranging between 22 percent and 35 percent of the total number of voters.
In the 2005 election the allocation of the 128 seats of the Lebanese Parliament were distributed as follows:
Proportional representation contribution to democracy
If parliamentary elections are considered the right gateway to democracy, it is not enough for a state to claim to be a democracy in order to deserve this nomination, while it neutralizes and falsifies the will of its people, or it consolidates an electoral system that guarantees the constant domination of the ruling party over the government apparatus and powers. This constitutes a marginalization of the logic of democracy whose main pillar is rotation. In the event that the representatives of a certain party constantly occupy the same governmental positions the democratic credibility of the system are called into question. In addition it is impossible to achieve any political or social development without democracy, and the latter cannot be fulfilled without a civil society including national political parties as a main pillar. Those parties are expected to compete on the basis of the best platforms for managing the affairs of the country, a fact that is missing in our national political life. The transition from a communal society to a civil society is the main bond in building democracy. Lebanon could well be the readiest of all Third World countries to build a genuine democracy due to the existence of liberal political traditions, such as a wide space for freedom and an embryonic civil society that has the ability to achieve democracy. Therefore the adoption of proportional representation seems to be a necessity associated with the creation of national political parties.
It is a clear and undeniable fact, as mentioned above, that the application of the majority electoral system that is prevalent at present will compromise fair representation. In order to guarantee fair representation we should adopt an electoral system that contributes to the development of political life and that allows the different constituents of the Lebanese people to participate in parliamentary life, each according to their social and political weight. This objective is only fulfilled under an electoral system based on proportional representation.
One of the advantages of proportional representation in large electoral districts is that it ensures national cohesion, since the larger the district the greater the opportunities for interaction. Proportional representation also helps to bring about the representation of people's aspirations and hopes; in fact voting occurs with a futuristic vision and it is a departure from a faulty situation and an attempt to correct it. Moreover, this system ensures fair representation by permitting the representation of all political trends, social forces and syndicates, each according to their weight and effectiveness. The proportional representation system also helps in modifying the behavior of both voter and candidate when the large district is adopted; the candidate who must now appeal to a diverse range of constituents is compelled to give up a parochial and sectarian discourse in favor of a national discourse. This in turn is positively reflected on the voter who will be interested in selecting the candidate along such lines, thus bringing about a departure from the darkness of confessionalism and localism and entering the vast realm of citizenship and nationalism.
Finally, the proportional representation system helps to reduce the negative impact of vote purchase which is a common practice in Lebanon elections.
Under the current system, vote buying drastically affects the outcome of elections, especially in multiple-seat districts where a few thousand votes can swing an election results. In the absence of a winner takes-all system, such as in proportional representation system, the most to be gained by vote purchasing is the acquisition of a limited number of seats. The proportional representation system also limits vote rigging for the aforementioned reason. Add to this a large number of benefits such as the promotion of parliamentary blocs, the exclusion of extremists by measure of electoral score as well as the creation of an efficient civil society.
Most importantly, proportional representation would diminish political confessionalism by indirectly contributing to the elimination of the spoils sharing. This would be achieved by weakening the pillars of this system namely the traditional sectarian leaders.
Unlike the current electoral system which has helped cultivate and perpetuate this zuaama class, a PR system would end the political monopolies these leaders exercise over their communities.
In conclusion, Lebanon represents a unique case in the world due to its heterogeneous social and sectarian make-up, which necessitates an electoral system that respects this reality, hence the above presentation on the ability of the proportional electoral system to guarantee a fair share in power to the participants in the political game. Proportional representation has been adopted by most European countries and in the European Parliament for the fairness of representation it ensures. It was also applied in the recent elections held in Iraq whose social and sectarian make-up resembles ours. Even in Britain which has adopted the majority electoral system since the 17th century and which does not have a heterogeneous society along the Lebanese and Iraqi models, a campaign has been launched by major political parties requesting proportional representation. The main argument raised is the quest for a fair share in power and the rejection of being ruled by a party that won only 36 percent of the votes.
****Abdo Saad is head of the Beirut Center for Research and Information
Analysis: Lebanon II - The Fallout
By YAAKOV AMIDROR
Talkbacks for this article: 26
Why Hizbullah is keeping the cease-fire:
It is not easy to judge the war in Lebanon because it was not between two states. Uniquely, it involved a guerrilla organization that is an extension of two sovereign states: Iran and Syria.
Hizbullah is still functioning and was functioning during the entire war. We have identified by name and address 440 members of Hizbullah who were killed during the war. From my experience, this figure is between half and two-thirds of the actual casualties, which were not less than 500 and may have reached 700 - a figure greater than all the casualties Hizbullah has suffered during the last 20 years.
It will take Hizbullah at least two years to rebuild its capabilities and to recruit and train new people. This is why Hizbullah is keeping the cease-fire.
Hizbullah succeeded in launching 4,000 short-range Katyushas into Israel, and Israel didn't stop them. At the same time, Israel hit more than 150 rocket launchers. Almost a third of these, including most of Hizbullah's long-range missiles, were hit in a preventive air strike during the first night of the fighting. Israel also developed a system which made the long-range rocket launchers good for one use only. Within less than five minutes of launch they were destroyed by Israel's air force, an unprecedented achievement in modern warfare.
Hizbullah also sent three aerial drones toward Israel with a payload of 45 kilograms of TNT each. One had technical problems and fell into the sea, while the other two were destroyed by the air force. This was the surprise that Hizbullah hoped to use against Tel Aviv, but it didn't succeed.
From a military point of view, when Israel deployed its ground forces, they fulfilled every mission according to schedule. There is not one example in which Hizbullah succeeded in stopping the IDF when it had a clear mission. One of the problems was that in some areas the mission was a bit blurred.
The fact that the war was ended before Israel got back the kidnapped soldiers is a great mistake. I believe that if Israel would have said it was not going to implement the cease-fire without the kidnapped soldiers being transferred to the Lebanese government, we might have achieved their return.
The question of deterrence
Deterrence has two elements: the first is the determination to use your capability and the second is to have this capability. I think it was very important that Israel made the decision to go to war and sustained the war for more than a month, despite extensive Hizbullah rocket attacks across northern Israel.
The determination of the government to respond and to retaliate is a very important factor in restoring deterrence. Now those around Israel understand it has certain red lines, and that if these lines are crossed by the Syrians, the Palestinians or the Lebanese, Israel's retaliation will be intentionally disproportionate. As a small country, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of reacting proportionally.
Middle East leaders understand that Israel is prepared to use military force, and that in the future we are not going to be as tolerant of attempts to act against us. We understand that it was a mistake not to respond to Hizbullah for six years. Israel is returning to its previous policy of preemptive action when necessary.
We believe Hizbullah fired some 1,000 antitank missiles at IDF tanks, hitting around 50 tanks and penetrating half of them. In terms of other recent wars, this was not such a great success. Israelis want to believe that our tanks are impenetrable, but such a tank does not exist in physics.
While this upsets many Israelis, in terms of warfare, the new missiles were nothing to write home about, and this is before we factor in new defensive systems which have been developed in Israel. Perhaps some leaders in the Middle East will make the mistake of believing that Israel's military does not have the capability to deal with such threats as antitank missiles and Katyushas, which would also be a factor affecting deterrence.
When Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah himself said on August 27 that if he knew his July 12 attack would lead to this kind of war, he wouldn't have ordered the operation, it sums up in one sentence what we can learn from this war. Israel made many mistakes. But in the end, from Hizbullah's point of view, their whole July 12 operation was a mistake.
The political process
It was understood from the beginning of the fighting that there was a need for a political process as an extension of the military operation. Here, I think that the achievements are more than many Israelis expected. Even after the Lebanese had finally pushed out the Syrians, the international community made no moves to implement the other parts of UN Resolution 1559, which clearly said all the militias in Lebanon should be disarmed and the Lebanese government should take responsibility in south Lebanon. Nasrallah said at the beginning of the war that there would be no international forces and no Lebanese army in south Lebanon. The entry of these forces is, from the Israeli point of view, the greatest success of the war.
The international community understands that responsibility for south Lebanon is not in the hands of the Israelis. It is in the hands of the international community and the Lebanese. With more than 50 Islamic states, Israel stands alone at the UN with America and Micronesia. But the UN presence in south Lebanon is not connected only to Israel. This is a chance for Lebanon to again be a sovereign, free country, without Hizbullah's state within a state. For the UN, this is an historic opportunity to rebuild its reputation as an organization that has the tools to implement a UN Resolution, with 10,000 soldiers from Europe in south Lebanon.
Yet based on our experience, we don't trust the United Nations. Under its umbrella, Hizbullah could do whatever it wanted and the UN stopped Israel from retaliating or preventing Hizbullah from acting against us.
This war clearly exposed the relationship between terror organizations and sovereign states. Syria and Iran built up Hizbullah. The Iranians invested $1 billion-2b. in the last 10 years to finance, train, and arm this organization. Some 80 percent of the rockets that hit Israel came from Syria. The most advanced missiles in the Russian arsenal were sent by Syria to Hizbullah, after Israel had warned the Russians not to sell them to Syria.
Iran lost the war
From the point of view of Iran, this war was a great failure. What was the whole purpose of the $1b.-2b. that Iran invested in Hizbullah? It was the matchbox that Iran hoped to ignite to achieve something, or to prevent something, with regard to Israel in the future. The Iranians used it and they achieved nothing. It cannot be used again. We know how to deal with this threat, and next time we will deal with it in a better way. We have to prepare the civil defense systems in the North and to use the ground forces in other ways, but if this is the threat, it's not a strategic threat to Israel. We can cope with it.
The Iranians did not even improve their reputation in this war. What did the Iranians do to help Hizbullah, their ally and their extension in south Lebanon? What was Nasrallah saying to himself sitting in a bunker somewhere - maybe under the Iranian embassy? The Iranians were the big losers in this war.
Israel investigates the war:
Israel is now investigating the mistakes of the war. Were the mistakes at the political level - we didn't let the military act? Were they inside the military, which was not determined enough or clear enough about the goals and the missions? The main reason to investigate the war is to understand why we did not use our potential, because we had the potential to do better.
One mission which was not fulfilled was to stop the Katyushas. Some 95% of the rockets were launched from an area in south Lebanon bordered by the Litani River on the west and the Nabatiya area in the east. Geography remains the name of the game. When you don't have control on the ground in the areas which are important to defend yourself, and to prevent the other side from using its capabilities, you're not in a good position.
Shi'ites and Sunnis:
This the first time in history in which the Shi'ites are becoming a leading force in the Muslim world. Of the 1.2 billion Muslims, only 15% are Shi'ites, and they live mainly in three countries - Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. From the Sunni point of view, this appears as an arc from Teheran through Baghdad to Beirut. The Sunnis understand better than us what it would mean if the Shi'ites became the leading force in the Middle East, and this possibility upsets many people in the Sunni world.
Another version of the sectarian tension may be seen with the ruling Alawites in Syria. The Alawites today comprise 10% of the population. The other 90% are Sunni. The Alawites understand that if the Sunnis take control of Syria, within two months the Alawites will become only 5%, as some will flee for their lives and others will be killed by the Sunnis. The bad blood between the Alawites and the Sunnis in Syria is worse than between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites in Iraq.
The impact of the war on the Palestinians:
I expect Hizbullah to invest more energy in the Palestinian territories now that it has lost its capability to use its forces in south Lebanon. Hizbullah finances Fatah-Tanzim cells in the West Bank, especially in the northern part, in Samaria. They are also involved in Gaza, where they help Hamas a great deal. In the past they sent some weapons ships to Gaza.
The Iranians may also decide that perhaps they can achieve more by supporting Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Tanzim than they can through another round by Hizbullah. We can see the beginning of this in stepped-up efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
What lessons will the Palestinians draw from this war? Hamas and Islamic Jihad will try to strengthen their capabilities in all the areas that seem to be weak points for the Israeli military. For example, they will seek to smuggle in more antitank missiles. They also understand that our air force is a main element in our capabilities, and will seek to acquire more anti-aircraft missiles as well.
The Palestinians know that the fact that Israelis are very bitter about the consequences of the war does not mean that we didn't succeed. They know that this is an Israeli habit, not to be satisfied with anything. I believe that the leadership of the Palestinians will understand that Israel, after the war, is a state that is not going to give up even one square kilometer if that will harm its security.
What is the real mood of the Israeli people after the war? It is that we are not going to make the same mistake again. We are not going to put ourselves in danger if it is not necessary.
We unilaterally retreated from Lebanon, and didn't retaliate for six years, and in the end we found Hizbullah in a stronger position to fight against us. When Israel retreated from Gaza, what was the result? More Kassam rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon. We are not going to be the suckers of the Middle East. This is the deepest understanding of most Israelis, and the Palestinians are in a better position to understand this.
There will be a huge gap between the Palestinian extremists, who say, "Let's become stronger, we will show them as Hizbullah did. We will be the next Hizbullah in Gaza," and the deeper understanding of the leadership that Israel is not going to give up, even on minor matters.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror is former commander of the IDF's National Defense College and the IDF Staff and Command College. He is also a former head of the IDF's research and assessment division, with special responsibility for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment. In addition, he served as the military secretary of the minister of defense.
This is an edited version of "Why Hizbullah Is Keeping the Cease-Fire," which originally appeared as a Jerusalem Issue Brief of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Rice Lashes Out at Syria, Lahoud and Iran
Naharnet: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has accused Syria of involvement in activities to destabilize Lebanon's government and warned of "bad reaction" if President Emile Lahoud decided to dismiss the majority administration.
In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai, Rice said: "We want a change in Syria's behavior. And we've made very clear that Syria, if it can find a way to be a stabilizing force in the region, rather than a destabilizing force, of course, then there would be much to talk about."
She accused Syria of "allowing its territory to be used for the transit of terrorists from Syria to Iraq."
"They're killing innocent Iraqis. Syria is engaging in activities that are destabilizing to the democratic government of Lebanon and resisting efforts there to deal with Lebanon's past, the assassination of (Former Premier) Rafik Hariri," Rice added.
In another interview with Israel's Channel 10 about the possibility of Israeli engagement with Syria, Rice said the United States "would like to see at some point a resolution on the Syrian matter," but noted that Syria currently continues to try to "undermine the government of Lebanon" and "play a negative role in the Palestinian conflict."
"There's no indication that the Syrian government has anything but disruptive plans right now," Rice said. "(The U.S. continues) to look for evidence that Syria's behavior is changing, that Syria is going to stop supporting the destabilization of Iraq, that Syria will stop supporting the destabilization of Lebanon."
In response to a question by Al Rai on what would the U.S. reaction be if Lahoud decided to dismiss the Saniora government, Rice said: "I think there'd be a very, very bad international reaction to that because people support the government of Prime Minister Saniora."
She reiterated that Saniora formed his government after "free and fair parliamentary elections."
"He has governed through a very difficult war for the Lebanese people, a tragic war for the Lebanese people."
"He has international support. There's going to be a Paris donor's conference to try to help the Lebanese government," she added.
Rice, in her interview with Fox News, said the Iranians are "making life very difficult for a lot of our friends in the region through Hizbullah and Hamas and support for extremists."
"They threaten to really destabilize the region," she said.
The United States will combat Iranian efforts at destabilization, especially in Iraq, Rice said, adding that the U.S. military aims at carrying out these efforts from within Iraq.
"We're going to continue to reach out to the Iranian people, a great people, a people that shouldn't be isolated," Rice said. "But we have to be very tough with Iran and make life difficult for them if they're not going to adhere to international norms." Beirut, 17 Jan 07, 15:12
Rice, Arab Counterparts Pledge Financial Aid for Lebanon Ahead of Donors' Conference
Naharnet: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and eight Arab counterparts have vowed to provide financial aid for Lebanon ahead of an international donors' conference and called for noninterference in Lebanese affairs.
"The participants pledged their political and financial support to Lebanon," said a joint statement issued after Rice's meeting with the foreign ministers of the "GCC+2" group of U.S. allies in Kuwait on Tuesday. Rice and the ministers from Gulf Cooperation Council members Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Egypt and Jordan, said they "look forward to a successful Paris III meeting which will support Lebanon's long-term development and fiscal stabilization." The statement coincided with an Arab tour by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora to drum up support for his government and for the aid conference to be held in Paris January 25. The conference is expected to be attended by Western countries and oil-rich Arab states which back Saniora's government and the parliamentary majority. The government has been locked in a standoff with the Hizbullah-led opposition demanding the formation of a national unity cabinet so as to have a veto-wielding power. The joint statement said Rice and the eight Arab foreign ministers "called for the respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Lebanon and for noninterference in its internal affairs."
Earlier, Rice and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal reiterated their support for Saniora.
"We agreed on the importance of calming down the situation and defusing the existing tension and paving the way to the success of Paris III conference with support and interest for our two countries," Prince Saud said at a joint conference with Rice in Riyadh.Asked whether Saudi Arabia has agreed to take specific steps to solve the Lebanese crisis in coordination with the Bush administration, Prince Saud said: "Both of us suggest and welcome the endeavor of the Secretary General of the Arab League to find a solution. We are looking forward to the response of the Lebanese factions to this solution."(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 17 Jan 07, 08:25
Professor speaks to students about war in Lebanon
Thursday, January 18, 2007
As part of his North American tour, Professor As’ad Abukhalil spoke at King’s University College on “The Israeli War on Lebanon” Monday night.
Abukhalil is the author of four books on Middle East issues and a frequent contributor to major news outlets. The California State University professor’s 35-minute presentation sparked heated discussion during the hour-long Q&A session.
Abukhalil, 47, has lived through Israeli attacks on Palestine, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and an air strike on a Libyan airliner. The most tragic incident he recalled was the levelling of his neighbours’ home in southern Lebanon while he remained shocked and frozen in his home only metres away from a site devastated by an Israeli concussion bomb.
He has been influenced by Middle-East politics since his teenage years, but said, “never would I succumb to anti-Semitic action; I speak and write against it in English and Arabic.” Abukhalil said a universality exists within a problem found throughout the world: “The thriving of fundamentalism in all religions.”
He breaks down fundamentalism amongst Christians, Jews, and Islamists as similar in that they are mysoginistic, sexist, against the enlightenment, and opposed to secularization. Abukhalil isn’t surprised regarding the handling of the war in Lebanon and its outcome. He emphasized the retreat Israel was forced into in the 2000 invasion that repeated itself this summer.
He believes the war was premeditated, and not, as the West claims, “a spontaneous response to crossing the blue line — a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel, including the Golan Heights, published by the United Nations in June 2000 to determine whether Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon — the capture of two soldiers, and a killing of eight.”
In place of this assumption, Abukhalil said the war was preconceived by the United States and Israel. He cited an August 2006 San Francisco Chronicle article revealing Israeli officials had briefed Pentagon officials about plans for a large-scale attack months before the summer events occurred.
Abukhalil said Hezbollah took on the task the Lebanese army hadn’t: defending Lebanese borders from the Israeli attack. He added Israel isn’t justified in attacking wide-scale for the crossing of the blue line by Hezbollah. He also said Hezbollah had crossed the blue line 100 times and Israel had violated the blue line 11,872 times since 2000. When asked by an audience member about Hezbollah’s political leanings he replied it shouldn’t be placed on a political spectrum as it has no socioeconomic strategy. Hezbollah’s main focus is fighting the occupation. Abukhalil offered little optimism for peace in the conflict.
“Israel’s ability to keep the occupation and maintain itself as an aggressor far surpasses the economic consideration,” he said.
Abukhalil said after a summer interview with Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, he believes Hezbollah won’t lay down its arms.