The "Israeli war on Lebanon" and its Repercussions
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Khair El-Din Haseeb -Daily Star
Director-General, Centre for Arab Unity Studies
Today, after the cessation of "hostilities", it is necessary to think about the possible repercussions of the Israeli aggression on various parties involved, in one way or the other, on both sides of the conflict: Hezbollah, as a resistance movement, and Lebanon on one side, and Israel on the other, as well as its long term effect on the Arab world. For practical and space considerations, this article will deals with Hezbollah and its resistance movement, the repercussion on Israel, and on the Arab World. Effects on Lebanon's internal political and economic situations and its relations with the Arab World and International Community has already been exhaustively discussed.
Hezbollah deserves to be looked at in detail on account of its present and future impact on areas beyond Lebanon, including Israel, the Arab neighbours of 1948 Palestine, and the regional and international situation. These can be summarised as follows:
1. The national resistance in Lebanon has effectively scored a "strategic and historic victory" as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah himself has said in the speech he delivered immediately after the "cessation of hostilities" was declared, and as many in Israel and the West have since recognised. On the other hand, Israel has demonstratively failed to achieve any of its declared objectives in this war.
The national resistance's objective was to liberate the Chebaa Farms, affect an exchange of prisoners, obtain maps from Israel indicating the location of the land mines it planted in Lebanon, and prove its ability to "deter" any Israeli attack on Lebanon. As for the debate regarding whether Resolution 1701has effectively addressed the issue of the Chebaa Farms, in my opinion a significant step forward has been taken in this regard. The Chebaa Farms were not covered by the United Nations' Resolution 425 regarding Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon after the "Litani Operation" of 1978, but by Resolution 242 regarding territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Now, however, Chebaa is once again on the Security Council's agenda and the latter has in fact asked the Secretary General, through Resolution 1701, to submit within one month a report about his talks with relevant parties regarding this particular issue. During recent debates regarding the text of Resolution 1701, the United States prevented the inclusion of clearer text on Chebaa so as not to give the impression that the resistance and Hezbollah had scored a victory. This, however, did not prevent the issue from being placed once again on the Security Council's agenda, and no doubt, the outcome will be in favour of returning the Farms to Lebanon, especially now that Syria has recognised that they are indeed part of Lebanon. When asked in an interview with the Lebanese "Al-Akhbar" newspaper "if Lebanon asks Syria to sign on a document recognising the Lebanese identity of the Farms, will it do that?" Mr Walid al-Moallem, Syria's Foreign Minister, replied: "We sent an official letter to the United Nations confirming that fact and it is already in their files. They, however, want us to sign on maps and we cannot do that while the occupation persists. The issue is very clear...
As for the issue of the prisoner exchange referred to in Resolution 1701's preamble, (the issue of releasing the two Israeli prisoners in return for Lebanese prisoners) it is now a forgone conclusion. Resolution 1701 was adopted under Chapter Six and, not Seven, of the United Nations Charter and therefore there is nothing that the latter can do to force Lebanon, through the resistance, to release the two Israeli prisoners without exchanging them for Lebanese, and/or other, prisoners. This exchange is expected to take place soon given Israel's urgent need to ensure its own prisoners' release. Israel has also declared five of its soldiers "missing in action" and it could very well be that they are, dead or alive, in the hands of the resistance; which will further accelerate Israel's urgency to deal with the issue.
As for the issues of the map of Israeli mines in Lebanon and the deterrence ability of the resistance, the map has already been submitted to the United Nations following the end of hostilities, thus the deterrence power of the resistance has already been made evident. The Lebanese resistance has therefore achieved, or will soon achieve, all its aims. If this is not a victory, then what is?
On the other hand Israel has failed to achieve any of its stated objectives in the war, as I will explain later.
2. Hezbollah's resistance, from the point of view of planning and execution, was highly effective, making it a "very good example" for the Arabs to follow. It demonstrated that the Lebanese resistance has been diligently planning and preparing for some time to do battle with Israel 3 in order to liberate the Chebaa Farms, force an exchange of prisoners, obtain the maps of Israeli land mines in Lebanon, and prove its deterrence ability to stop Israeli violations of Lebanon's territorial integrity, air space, and territorial waters.
The performance of the Lebanese resistance during the war stunned the Israelis not only as far as planning and readiness were concerned, but also the high technical and moral standards 4 of its fighting force. The resistance itself explains this as the result of a "marriage between brains and faith" that provide the Lebanese resistance fighter with the capacity to undergo a high level of training, and the faith to keep on fighting until martyrdom. This has resulted in an overall ability superior to that of the Israeli fighter, a fact bitterly recognized by the enemy.
The Lebanese resistance has achieved a similar feat on the media campaign front which demonstrates its keen awareness of the fact that "a successful publicity is half the victory in the battle". It managed its media campaign very effectively, a fact also recognised by the enemy 5. Its credibility increased as the war progressed due to the already integrity credibility of its leadership. Not only did this serve to bolster its media campaign and help repel the enemy who took its words and warnings seriously, it further reinforced the movement's ability to "deter".
The Lebanese resistance has also prevented Israeli intelligence from infiltrating its ranks and the leaderships of Hezbollah's and the resistance, and its operations room was able to continue leading the battle against Israel until the very end of the war.
3. What further increased Lebanese and Arab support for the resistance is the fact that Hezbollah waged its war with Israel under the banner of "Arabism and Islamism" and adopted an "Arab-Islamic" discourse 6.
4. It is difficult to understand the feat achieved by the Lebanese resistance without first understanding the nature of the party that stands behind it; that is Hezbollah. In light of available published and unpublished information, we can say with some confidence that on the internal organisational, operational, and democratic levels, Hezbollah is the best organised and most democratic among all other Arab parties. It performs at a high level because it relies on modern technology and informatics, and on their various usages, and is the best informed among all the Arabs about what goes on inside Israel 7.
An Iraqi social scientist describes Hezbollah as follows: "Hezbollah is an ideology and a political party and, above all, a social movement (which makes it larger than a party). It is a social organisation closely involved with the Shiite community; it manages a series of service-oriented institutions, ( ) and is part of a large regional front. This multi-layered identity puts it in a unique position that allows it to survive". He ends by saying: "Hezbollah cannot be destroyed except by means of a crazy solution, namely either the destruction of the entire Shiite community, or the annihilation of Syria and Iran or the elimination of their political will 8 ".
5. It is difficult to address Hezbollah and its resistance movement without focussing attention on the role of its secretary general and head of its resistance movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah plays a distinguished role in both the Party and the resistance, in spite of the collective nature of that Party. For, in addition to his charismatic personality, which could not have allowed him by itself to play his current role, he possesses the relevant intellect, political acumen, and organisational ability, and holds the title of Sayyed, meaning that he is a descendent of Prophet Mohamed. Very few people know how Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah thinks; however, his life story, as he himself recounted it, 9 sheds light on this aspect of the man. The few who possessed both intellect and political acumen, such as Lenin, Nehru, Jamal Abdel-Nasser, and Nelson Mandela, are the ones who were able to leave their imprint on history.
Those who read his biography, and know his background as he was growing up, the various stages of his education, and the organisational abilities he acquired starting from the bottom up until his election as secretary general of the Party, and those who followed his television appearances during the war, could not but have noticed his calm demeanour, humility, and the very civilized nature of his discourse. He is the first Arab leader to tell his fighters that he "kisses their hands and feet". His speeches were free of fillers and repetitions and each contained separate messages for both the home front and beyond that, depending on which stage the war was at, which only added to the credibility he is renowned for among both his admirers and detractors. Thus, we not only have here an "exemplary party", we also have an "exemplary leader".
6. Hezbollah ability to realistically and successfully "Arabise" its resistance movement raises two questions: first, whether it can, if it really wanted to, transform itself into a Lebanese national party that transcends its own religious community to embrace the Lebanese national community and, second, to what extent is it able, if it wanted, to transform its ideology along similar lines? This is, after all, what Lebanon really needs in order to successfully extricate itself from the prevalent "one community - one party" system. This is a challenge that needs some time to mature given the need for a dose of "party education" for the movement and its members. If successful, this would allow it to enter history from the main door and have considerable impact that goes beyond Lebanon's borders to the Arab world at large.
7. The Hezbollah-led "exemplary resistance" will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the Palestinian and Iraqi resistance movements. For in spite of its different circumstances, capabilities, freedom of operation, and financial resources, given those at the disposal of the Lebanese resistance in the past six years, the latter's experience will be of much benefit to the resistance in Palestine and Iraq. However, they all need to coordinate their efforts, exchange expertise, undergo training, and learn some humility".
If the resistance in Palestine and Iraq need to learn from the experience of the Lebanese national resistance in managing, planning, and executing resistance operations, in addition to the use of anti Israeli armour missiles 10 (various types of Merkava tanks) which are one of Israel's military prides, the Lebanese resistance, on its part, needs to learn from the experience of the Iraqi resistance in the development of Road-Side Bombs, also known as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). These are currently the object of a technological race between the Pentagon and the Iraqi resistance, given that half of the American deaths in Iraq, and 70% of all injuries, are the result of IEDs11.
8. There remain important issues related to Hezbollah, its resistance, and its responsibility for the war, chief among which is the extent to which Hezbollah can be held responsible for triggering the war, i.e. Israel's attack on Lebanon.
- Question one: Does the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers from inside Israel, and the killing of eight others, constitute an attack on Israel and therefore gives Israel the right of self defence?
Article 51 of the United Nations' Charter, relevant to the right of self defence, states: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain inter- national peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security."
Some legal experts believe that such actions are not unusual between neighboring countries, which means that the incident does not constitute an armed attack on Israel; they also base their opinion on similar practices by Israel in the past. Israel has indeed at times kidnapped and assassinated a number of Hezbollah leaders 12 without the Security Council considering these incidents as armed attacks on Lebanon or adopting resolutions condemning Israel or ascribing blame to it.
- Question two: To what extent was Israel's barbaric attack on Lebanon the result of the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and not a pre-planned operation that would have taken place regardless of whether the kidnapping had occurred or not? There is a lot of information indicating that an Israeli attack on Lebanon had already been planned for and agreed upon by Israel and the United States, and that the kidnapping had surprised Israel and forced it to attack earlier than planned. This means that the attack would have occurred regardless of the kidnapping 13.
- Did Hezbollah know or expect that the kidnapping would lead to an Israeli all-out war on Lebanon? It is clear from Sayyed Nasrallah's press conference on July 12, 2006, the day of the two soldiers' kidnapping 14, that his intention was to exchange them for Lebanese prisoners through indirect negotiations. Had he expected Israel's ensuing reaction, he would not have held an open news conference that same night. It was also clear from Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's appearance in a pre-recorded message on al-Manar Television on July 26, 2006, that Hezbollah was not aware of the Israeli-American plan to wage war on Lebanon until it actually happened. For he said in that speech: "When the arrest took place, and without knowing it, the resistance foiled a more dangerous plan and a worst war scenario on Lebanon, on the Lebanese resistance, and on the people of Lebanon. The humiliation suffered by the Zionist enemy as a result of the kidnapping operation made it impossible for it to absorb this coup, and therefore moved up the attack for which it was already preparing 15..."
Furthermore, the Party had undertaken similar kidnappings in the Chebaa area since 2000, and Israel had not responded with a military attack on Lebanon; this confirms the fact that Hezbollah did not expect a war on Lebanon in response to the soldiers' kidnapping. In 2004, an exchange of had taken place involving Israeli soldiers detained by Hezbollah, including an officer who was lured to Lebanon and then arrested, in return for a large number of Lebanese prisoners, including some whom Israel, as previously indicated, had kidnapped from inside Lebanon.
- As to ascribing blame for the losses incurred by Lebanon, such as civilian deaths, destruction of infrastructure, and other 16 on the resistance, the following can be said:
Lebanon's material losses, estimated at seven billion dollars 17, could be totally covered by the over $800 million pledged by various Arab Governments to compensate for the open or secret collusion by some of them, and the silence and fear of others, and by pledges from the international community. A Lebanon capable of taking care of itself in the face of Israeli aggression is much more attractive for Arab and foreign investments after, rather than before, its victory over Israel. The displaced have in fact started returning to their homes and Hezbollah, since the first day after the cessation of hostilities, has put in place an urgent and feasible programme to deal with the problem of partially or totally destroyed homes, and several Lebanese personalities and private institution have undertaken to repair or rebuild most of the country's destroyed bridges.
The human losses are but the price that any country has to pay in order to repel an enemy attack on it and safeguard its sovereignty. Enough to know that the number of those killed in Iraq during July 2006, i.e. in the span of a single month, was 3438, or twice the number of those killed in both Lebanon and Palestine during that same period 18. Liberation from occupation was never without its concomitant human sacrifice, and at a later stage I will address Israel's losses.
9. There are other outstanding questions such as the relationship between the resistance and the Lebanese state, how long the resistance can be expected to last 19, and whether it is a resistance movement or a militia.
In relation to the first issue, the Lebanese Government's statement on which it obtained the vote of confidence at the National Assembly, states the following:
"The Lebanese resistance is a true and natural expression of the national right of the Lebanese people to liberate its territory, defend its integrity, face up to Israeli aggression, threats, and designs on Lebanon, and liberate the remaining occupied Lebanese territories 20".
- Is there anything clearer than mandating the Lebanese resistance with the defence of Lebanon's integrity in the face of Israeli aggression and the liberation of its territory?
- Was the Lebanese State able to stop Israel's repeated violations of the country's air space, territorial waters, and often the "Blue Line", by relying on the means available to it or on the Security Council?
- And was there a way, other than resistance, to liberate Chebaa, recuperate the prisoners, obtain the mine maps, and confront Israeli aggression?
10. Regarding popular support for the resistance within Lebanon, we can say the following:
At the beginning of the war, and for a very brief period of time, opposition voices were heard against Hezbollah's unilateral move to arrest the two Israeli soldiers and the unleashing of the ensuing war on Lebanon. These, however, lasted only a few days and soon a near total national consensus in support of the resistance prevailed; this in turn generated an unprecedented degree of national unity which lasted until the end of the war. But, how long will this near total national consensus last now that hostilities have ceased? It is not an issue one can address in total confidence; however, the displacement of large numbers of residents from the south of the country, from Beirut's southern suburb, and from the Beqaa Valley, and their seeking refuge in other areas of the country further reinforced national unity. This encounter, the first of its kind among Lebanon's various communities, saw the refugees received with open arms by all sectors of the Lebanese population and provided with all necessary means of livelihood.
Nothing is more indicative of this national unity than the results of a survey, conducted by the "Beirut Centre for Research and Information", to gauge the popular mood regarding various aspects of the war, between July 24-26, or two weeks after the onset of the Israeli aggression 21. With minor differences between the country's various religious communities which did not significantly impact on the survey's results, the responses revealed the following general trends:
a) In response to the question: "Do you support the resistance's operation to detain Israeli soldiers in order to exchange them for prisoners detained by Israel?" a little over 70%, or over two thirds of all communities, except for the Druze, and with differing percentages, said "Yes".
b) In response to the question: "Do you support the resistance's performance during the Israeli aggression on Lebanon?" about 87%, from across the religious spectrum, gave a positive answer.
c) In response to the question: "Do you believe that the resistance will be beaten by Israel?" over 63%, or around two thirds, said "No".
d) In response to the question: "Do you think that Israel and the United States will succeed in imposing their conditions on a seize-fire agreement?" around 67% of all respondents, or over two thirds, except for two religious communities, said "No".
e) To the question: "Do you believe that the United States is an honest broker in this war?" 90% of respondents from all religious communities said "No".
f) In response to the question: "Do you think the United States took a positive stance towards Lebanon in this war?" an overwhelming majority, or around 86% from among all religious communities, said "No".
g) In response to the question: "Do you believe that the Lebanese Government's political and diplomatic efforts would have been enough to repel this aggression?" almost two-thirds of the respondents from all religious communities, or 64%, said "No".
h) To the last question in the survey: "Do you think the Government did its duty to assist the displaced?" a simple majority of 54%, with varying percentages among the religious communities, said "No"
11. Regarding the future role of the resistance in Lebanon once the liberation of the Chebaa Farms and the exchange of prisoners have been achieved, and once the United Nations hands Lebanon the authentic map of the mines planted by Israel, as Resolution 1701 stipulates, the main remaining issue will be that of defending Lebanon against any future attacks by Israel. It will require the parties to reach an understanding on the development of an overall "national defence strategy" for Lebanon based on national consensus. This national strategy would delineate the exact and realistic role of the resistance according to what will be agreed upon among the parties. Thus, once the liberation role of the resistance comes to an end, its defensive role will be delineated by the terms of a national defence strategy.
12. Regarding the fear by some that Hezbollah might at some point use its weapons internally, it is important to note that since its establishment in 1982, Hezbollah has never used its resistance force domestically, but only for the purpose of liberating and defending Lebanese territory.
13. As for the relationship between the Lebanese resistance and regional powers, mainly Syria and Iran, numerous reliable studies by American strategic studies centres, and others such institutions, confirm Hezbollah's "non-dependence" on these powers. This, however, does not prevent it from benefiting from these countries' assistance in matters of armament and experience 22. It also does not prevent these powers from benefiting from the results of the Lebanese resistance's actions, for although the resistance's raison d'etre is purely Lebanese, the impact of its actions extends beyond Lebanon to the region as whole 23.
Regarding the effects of the war on Israel, the following can be said:
1. According to comments by observers within the country, Israel has failed to achieve its stated objectives, objectives which gradually became more modest as the war with the Lebanese resistance turned gradually to its disadvantage. In an interview Anthony Cordesman's conducted in Israel with a senior official, the latter summarised the five main objectives for which Israel went to war as follows: 24
a) The destruction of the "Iranian Eastern Command"25 before Iran becomes a nuclear state.
b) Reinstating Israel's deterrent capability after its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and from Gaza in 2005, and countering the impression that Israel was forced to withdraw due to its weakness.
c) Forcing Lebanon to become and act like a responsible state, and ending the status of Hezbollah as a state within a state in Lebanon.
d) Damaging or destroying Hezbollah while keeping in mind that it could not be totally destroyed as a military power and would continue to exist as a main political force in Lebanon.
e) Recuperating the two Israeli soldiers detained by Hezbollah alive without having to exchange them for a large number of prisoners in Israel - or for the thousands requested by Nasrallah and Hezbollah.
Many Israeli observers and military officials were of the opinion that Israel had failed to achieve all or most of these objectives 26.
2. The war's outcome had considerable impact on the "Israeli Defence Strategy" since, for the first time ever, Israel had to fight a war on its own territory; all Israel's other wars were fought outside its borders. Furthermore, all regions of Israel were now within reach of the Lebanese resistance's rockets and, before that, of the Palestinian Qassam rockets and, before that in 1991, of Iraq's scuds which rained on Haifa and Tel Aviv. Rockets launched by the Lebanese resistance were, however, the most effective and destructive. This in fact means that neither geography nor the Israeli separation wall are enough now to protect Israel.
3. One of the war's effects on Israel and its strategy is the abandonment of the unilateral withdrawal policy; the Israeli Prime Minister told his ministers after the cessation of hostilities that "as a result of the war in Lebanon and the extreme harm that befell the citizens in the north of the country, plans for unilateral withdrawal are no longer at the top of my Government's agenda...". This is contrary to what he had previously stated, namely that the Israeli Army's achievements in the war would help implement plans for unilateral withdrawal 27.
4. The idea of possible negotiations with Syria started being heard; Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz that "Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni a week ago appointed Yaacov Dayan (Yaki), who until recently was head of the diplomatic desk in the Foreign Ministry, as "project manager" to draw up a document dealing with the Israeli-Syrian relationship. Dayan has been asked to "present Livni and Foreign Ministry officials with a document detailing the chances for resuming the diplomatic dialogue with Syria in the light of Syrian and Israeli positions on substantive issues such as borders, security and normalization." He goes on to say: "Associates of Peretz say he has become convinced of the need to examine Assad's intentions. They say he views the Syrian president as an important factor in preventing a renewal of fighting on the northern border and in enforcing the arms embargo on Lebanon." However, Akiva Eldar continues by saying that "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opposes any deviation from his strict policy of boycotting Syria..." 28
Regardless of the divergent views within Israel, this door has now been open while, before the war on Lebanon, it had been frimly closed for some time.
5. Voices were heard saying that Israel has to conduct itself like a part of this region rather than as an agent of the United States 29.
6. For the second time ever, the first being when Iraqi rockets were launched at Tel Aviv in 1991, more than a million Israelis were forced to abandon their homes and move southwards in search for refuge, while in major cities many more hunkered down in underground shelters. Besides causing a great deal of commotion, this had quite a psychological effect on many Israeli citizens and skewed their attitude towards the Arabs.
7. The losses which Israel admitted incurring in this war are as follows:
Statistics from Israel's war on Lebanon
Source: Gad Lithor and others, "The War in Numbers" Yodiot Ahronot, 15/8/2006. Remarks in brackets were added by us.
Billion Shekels in losses 25
Days of fighting 33
Rockets launched at Israel 3970
Soldiers killed 117
Civilians killed 39
Number of those injured 5000
Number of those hospitalised 311
Destroyed homes 12000
Burned trees 750,000
Terrorists killed (resistance deaths) 500
Number of soldiers who took part in the fighting 30,000
Air raids (launched by Israel against Lebanon) 15000
Hours ships sailed 800
Targets bombed (in Lebanon) 7000
Rocket launchers destroyed (in Lebanon) 126
Crashed helicopters and aircrafts 4
Helicopters downed 1
Meals distributed to the fighters (Israeli) 700,000
Loaves of bread the soldiers ate (Israeli) 780,000
Note: One U. S. dollar equals 4.3515 Shekel
According to figures by business owners, the total financial damage incurred by the country's economic sector as a result of the war (the industry, tourism, agricultural and commercial sectors in the north of the country) is estimated at 11.5 billion Shekels, or 1.9% of the gross national product. Damage to the industrial sector in the north alone was estimated at 4.7 billion Shekels, and economic experts estimate the cost of rebuilding all business concerns and factories in the north at 11 billion Shekels. 30
8. Contrary to the good performance of the Lebanese media campaign, the Israeli media campaign did not perform well at all. Jackie Hoji says: "We are able to say with certainty that from the point of view of the media campaign directed towards Lebanon and the Arab world, Israel has suffered a glaring defeat. It is glaring because the State cannot destroy a neighbouring country and not tell its citizens the reason why it did it..." 31
9. As for the impact of the war on Israeli public opinion, an opinion survey conducted in Israel recently 32 to gauge public views concerning the outcome of the war, reveals the following note-worthy indicators:
a) In response to a question about public satisfaction with Olmert, Peretz', and Haluts's performance during the war, support for Olmert dropped from 78% on 19/7/2006 to 40% on 15/8/2006; support for Minister of Defence Peretz went down from 61% on 19/7/2006 to 28% on 15/8/2006, and support for Joint Chief of Staff Haluts dropped to 44%.
Conclusion: these low numbers indicate general public disappointment in Israel with its political and military leaders.
b) In response to a question about who bears responsibility for the military failure; 40% blamed the Joint Chief of Staff (Haluts), 41% blamed Minister of Defence (Peretz), and 49% blamed Prime Minister (Olmert).
Conclusion: Israeli public opinion blames first and foremost the political establishment.
c) In response to the question about how Israelis will vote if elections to the Knesset were held today; Kadema got 29 seats (the same number it currently holds), Labour got 15 seats (today it holds 19 seats which means it lost 4 in the survey), and the Likud coalition got 20 seats (while today it holds 12, which means it gained 8 seats in the survey).
Conclusion: The survey's results shows punishment to the two parties in the ruling coalition, (Kadema and Labour), and favours the Likud right wing opposition (which includes Migdal and Ha Torah).
d) In response to the question concerning whether Israel should have agreed to a cease fire without first securing the return of the two captive Israeli soldiers; 70% said that Israel should not have agreed (as opposed to 27% who did).
Conclusion: 70% of Israelis believe that Israel did not achieve its objectives in the war (the return of the two soldiers).
e) In the response to the question about who won the war; 30% said that Israel won, while another 30% said Hezbollah had won.
Conclusion: i- the Israelis no longer believe that their state is always the winner in the war, and ii- Israeli efforts to convince the public that its army had won have come to naught.
The repercussions of the war on the Arab world could be manifested as follows:
1. There will be considerable moral repercussions, at both the Arab official and public levels, as far as the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned. The focus would be on the fact that a resistance movement, led by a single Lebanese Party, was able to repel Israel, behind which stands the might of the United States, and to prevent it from occupying Lebanon. This resistance movement had inflicted heavy losses on Israel, both in the south of Lebanon and within Israel itself and forced it to reconsider its defensive strategy. The question on everyone's mind would be: if the Lebanese resistance was able to achieve all this on its own, what would happen if the resistance in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq pooled their efforts? In the same vein, what would happen if Arab regimes developed a policy of confrontation and pressure vis-ą-vis Israel instead of their current policy of submission to the U.S. and Israel? 33 The considerable achievement of the Lebanese resistance will impose, on both the Arab regimes and the people, the re-evaluation of the way they dealt so far with Israel and the means of achieving the just demands of the Palestinian and Arab people. Arab regimes would be at pain to justify their present policies.
2. The considerable achievement of the Lebanese resistance has already had a big impact on the Arab people, both spiritually and morally, by pulling them out of their depression and desperation, and dispelling their feelings of incapacity. It reinstated their optimism and jolted them out of their long hibernation; this was evidenced by the large demonstrations organised in most Arab capitals in defiance of the ban, imposed by some Arab regimes, on demonstrations.
3. The Lebanese resistance also imposed on some of these Arab Governments the re-evaluation of their positions regarding events unfolding in Lebanon. For after having at first accused the Lebanese resistance of "adventurism" and blamed it "for the destruction in Lebanon and posing a threat to peace in the region" 34, four days later on July 16, 2006, Arab Foreign Ministers at the end of a meeting in Cairo, and in light of the civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure inflicted by Israel, issued a statement in which "adventurism" and "threats to peace in the region" were conspicuously absent. They, however, confined themselves to supporting the position of the Lebanese Government and avoided any reference to the resistance itself. 35 The success and steadfastness of the Lebanese resistance changed the thrust of Arab propaganda, and Arab Foreign Ministers holding another emergency meeting, this time in Beirut on 8/8/2006, endorsed the seven point plan advanced by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora in Rome and adopted by the Lebanese Government. Once again, their statement failed to support the Lebanese resistance by name and used general terms to express support for the Lebanese people and its endurance. It stated, among other, "the total rejection of all plans to turn Lebanon into a theatre of open confrontation to advance regional or international objectives at the detriment of the national interests of the Lebanese people, its security and stability. It expressed its total support for the steadfastness of the Government and people of Lebanon in the face of Israeli aggression and the policy of destruction and ruin pursued by Israel against the country's infrastructure and people. 36
4. Based on the wrong assumption that Israel, with support from the Untied States, will quickly overrun the South of Lebanon and destroy the resistance and Hezbollah, the war has once again brought to light, especially during its first week, the true identity of some Arab journalists and intellectuals who were either "sympathisers" or "collaborators" with the American publicity drive to market its view of the war. Their subsequent retractions, after the strong performance of the resistance and once it was too late, did not help them at all for their true colour had already become a matter of public knowledge.
5. Israel's failure to achieve its objectives in the war and the steadfastness of the resistance helped decrease American pressure on Syria, although this was not one of the aims of the confrontation between the resistance and Israel per se.
6. Israel's defeat in Lebanon will undoubtedly give the resistance in Palestine a needed boost. This is all the more undoubtedly interesting in light of the recent development, mentioned above, that the Israeli Government has abandoned its policy to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and the West Bank to previously specified borders. This means that it, or any other government, will have to search for a new policy regarding the Palestinian issue. At the same time, various Palestinian resistance groups would greatly benefit from looking at how Hezbollah managed to prevent Israel from infiltrating its ranks and how they instead infiltrated Israel and obtained a lot of information about its weapons. Ominously, Israel has in fact managed to infiltrate all the Palestinian resistance groups and liquidate their leaderships, especially high officials in Hamas
7. There is also no doubt that the results achieved by the Lebanese resistance in the war will also have positive moral and tangible effects on the resistance in Iraq, for the following reasons:
a) The Lebanese resistance has proven right those who say that "resistance is the only means of liberation" and that no matter how strong the occupier is, the resistance will be capable of achieving miracles if it executes its plans well through "marriage of brains and faith."
b) The Iraqi resistance can benefit from the moral support and expertise of the Lebanese resistance. From the moral point of view, the speech by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's at the opening session of the Forth Arab Conference in Support of the Resistance" held in Beirut on 30/3/2006of view, marked an important development in the attitude of the Lebanese resistance towards its Iraqi counterpart. In his speech Nasrallah referred, among other, to the Iraqi resistance saying: 37
"Regarding the Iraq issue, we believe that armed resistance is the right and genuine option to bringing the American occupation to an end. We, as a resistance force that draws on its cultural and intellectual background, and based on our experience in the field, strongly believe in and openly endorse the Iraqi resistance and the need to support it and stand by its side. At the same time, we have to help strengthen it because the biggest challenge it faces now is internal strife. The resistance in Lebanon never got involved in internal civil strife, neither did the resistance in Palestine. I cannot conceive of an Iraqi hand that fights the American occupier turning against a fellow Iraqi. We have confirmed information that there are murderous gangs killing Sunnis and Shias that operate under direct orders from the Americans, the Zionists, and the British. However, this does not mean that there are no criminals and murderers also involved. We therefore have to bolster the resistance in Iraq which should now turn its focus on the occupation. Only then can it achieve victory over the occupier and not allow itself to be dragged into domestic sectarian machinations. The Iraqi resistance should also be cleansed to avoid mixing the blood of innocents with that of the occupiers. Engaging in a peace process only becomes acceptable when two conditions are met:
* Never giving up the option of resistance, and
* Tying the hands of the occupier by drawing a timetable for its departure.
This was the first time that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah, expresses in such clear terms his support for the Iraqi resistance.
c) The display of national unity behind the Lebanese resistance and the absence of major sectarian disagreements in Lebanon during the war could help diminish the current sectarian and religious infighting in Iraq. It could also encourage some Iraqis, who have so far not joined the resistance, to do so.
d) The fact that the United States, who supported Israel's war on Lebanon, has failed to achieve its stated objectives in the war, namely the destruction and disarming the Lebanese resistance, has forced it to gradually retreat from its original demands on Lebanon. It evolved successively from its entrenched position during the G8 Summit in Russia which included, among other, a demand for the "immediate release of the two Israeli prisoners by Hezbollah", to the Rome conference, the first draft of the American-French resolution at the Security Council, to the final text of Resolution 1701. The fact that the Americans were forced to accept fundamental alterations to the text of the first resolution has led to the adoption of the much improved Resolution 1701, even if its terms are not entirely satisfactory. This evolution would not have taken place had it not been for the changing balance of power on the ground in Lebanon. The Lebanese resistance has thus proven that its achievements on the ground, and the launching of around four thousand rockets on Israel, could force the United States to change its policy, a fact that further confirms the all-important "pragmatism" at the heart of American policies. The Iraqi resistance can draw the right lessons from that, namely that what it achieves on the ground can impose fundamental changes to America's policies in Iraq and even force it to withdraw from the country.
e) This experience has also proven that other major powers in the world, such as the European Union, China, and Russia, who at first went along with the American position at the G8 Summit in Russia which eventually culminated in the first American-French draft resolution, can change their positions given the right conditions. For although the five permanent members had approved the first draft resolution, they soon changed their attitude and approved all the changes introduced to it. This again would not have taken place had it not been for the changing balance of power between Israel and the resistance on the ground in Lebanon.
The Iraqi resistance can also draw from that the valuable lesson that it should not rely on the initial and principled positions of the big powers, and that only its achievements on the ground and the personal interests of these countries, can bring about a significant change in attitude.
In light of this war's impact on the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, Israel, and the Arab world, we can arrive at two major conclusions:
1. If there is a will, and if brains and faith in one's cause coincide, victory can be achieved no matter what the obstacles are.
2. We are on the threshold of a major Arab upheaval that could usher in the many changes we were so far unable to achieve. The road is wide open to those who believe in the justice of their cause and are ready to make the necessary sacrifices.
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Arab Unity Studies, of which he is Director-General.
1 The Repercussions on Lebanon » is the subject of a seminar which the Centre for Arab Unity Studies has held in Beirut from August 31 to September 1, 2006. Over fifty intellectuals and activists from inside and outside Lebanon were invited to attend in order to ensure that various points of view were represented in the seminar, which is one of the Center's main concerns.
2 See al-Akhbar, 15/8/2006. (in Arabic)
3 See for example: Robert Fisk, Hizbollah's Response Reveals Months of Planning, the Independent, 167/2006.
4 No one imagined that the Lebanese resistance had built an interconnected network of tunnels, supplied 24 hours with electricity and air-conditioning, and dug so deep that Israeli heavy missiles, including those supplied by America during the war, could not reach. Edward Cody and Molly Moore, the Best Guerilla Force in the World, Washington Post, 14/8/2006. p. A 01.
5 See for example: Ethmar Akher, «Hezbollah's Secret Publicity Weapon » Yediot Ahronot, 18/8/2006 (translation from the source: 'Ata al-Qomeiry-Jerusalem).
6 Faleh Abdel-Jabbar: « Papers of Madness and the Pain of a Lebanese-Iraqi Memory (2-3) », al-Nahar, 20/8/2006, p. 13. (in Arabic)
7 For more information about Hezbollah, see: Abdel-Ilah Balqaziz, «The Resistance and the Liberation of the South Lebanon: Hezbollah from the Religious Hawza to the Front » (Beirut: Centre for Arab unity Studies 2000) (in Arabic), and «Who is Hezbollah? What are its Aims? (2-2): educational, propaganda, social, and religious institutions have made it the strongest on the Shiite scene bar none» Report by Marlene Khalifeh, al-Nahar, 13/8/2006. (in Arabic)
8 Abdel-Jabbar, Ibid, p. 15.
9 «Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: a Biography» published on page ... of this issue.
10 See Zeev Schiff, «Surprise of the War» Haaretz, 18/8/2006; he says in his article that "the surprise of the second war in Lebanon was the anti tank weapons and the way Hezbollah used them. This indeed came as a surprise to the Israeli Army". He goes on to say: "most Israeli army casualties in the war this time were the result of anti tank weapons..."
11 In light of these casualties, the Pentagon had to set up a special section to develop an antidote to this weapon, after all other attempts have failed, and allocated a budget of over $3.3 billion for this purpose; there are no positive results so far. In Iraq the Pentagon is avoiding using land routes and is instead transporting as much as possible of its troops, equipment, weapons, and supplies by air, in spite of the added cost. See: Joseph L. Galloway, Supply Lines, and Iraq War Effort at Risk, Detroit Free Press, 4/8/2006; Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, Insurgent Bombs Directed at GI's Increase in Iraq, New York Times, 17/8/2006; Renate Merle, Fighting Roadside Bombs: Low-Tech, High-Tech, Toy Box: Pentagon Seeks New Approach to a Deadly Problem in Iraq, Washington Post, 29/7/2006; Eric Schmitt, Pentagon Widens Program to Foil Bombings in Iraq, New York Times, 6/2/2006, and David Charter, US Blames New Bombs fro Rising Death Toll, Times, 27/10/2001.
12 Israel has assassinated Sheikh Ragheb Harb in 1984 and kidnapped Sheikh Abdel-Karim Obeid in 1989; in 1992 is assassinated Sayyed Abbas Mousawi who at that time was Hezbollah's Secretary General, and in 1994, kidnapped Mostapha al-Dirani (abu Ali). All of the above were members of Hezbollah's leadership, and the kidnappings were carried out by Israel inside Lebanese territory. Israel used car bombs to kill Jihad Jibril (2002), Ali Saleh (2003), and Ghaleb 'Awaly (2004). Why can Israel to kidnap, assassinate, and blow up leaders and members of Hezbollah without its action being considered an armed aggression, while Hezbollah's kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers is considered as such and gives Israel the right to defend itself and perpetrate barbaric acts from the air that killed over a thousand civilians and destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon including bridges, roads and more...?
Not to mention the kidnappings that the Israeli authorities are carrying out in Gaza and the West Bank in occupied Palestine; it kidnaped members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a number of the PNA's ministers who came to power through democratic election recognized as such by the United States and Israel itself. No condemnations by the United Nations were heard in spite of the fact that these acts violate the 1949 Geneva Convention and its articles concerning the responsibilities of occupying powers.
13 See: Seymour Hersh, Watching Lebanon: Washington's Interest in Israel's War, New Yorker (21 August 2006), and Matthew Kalman, Israel Set War Plan More than a Year Ago: Strategy was Put in Motion as Hezbollah Began Increasing its Military Strength, San Francisco Chronicle, 21/7/2006.
14 See: al-Safeer, 13/7/2006. (in Arabic)
15 See the text of the speech in al-Safeer, 26/7/2006, p. 7. (in Arabic)
16 Marwan Iskandar, "the Renaissance Tomorrow or the Day After", al-Nahar, 20/8/2006, p. 1 and 12 (in Arabic); he estimates the material and financial losses from the war at around seven billion dollars including the cost of absent profits from the stunted growth estimated a $1.4 - 1.5 billion and costs due to the damage to the infrastructure which he estimated at around $1.2 billion. He further estimates the cost of destroyed houses at $2.25 and losses of the state treasury from fees and taxes, emergency relief costs, closure of the airport and port, and retreat of income from added value taxes at no less than $600 million. Finally, he estimates losses from the lost tourist season and the retreat of investments at $1.5 billion.
18 See: Jihad al-Khazen, "Eyes and Ears", al-Hayat, 19/8/2006, p. 20 (in Arabic), and "The Options Narrow", the Guardian, 19/8/2006.
19 About this subject, see for example, the distinguished positions of President Salim al-Hoss regarding the issue, and the distinguished article by Bishop George Khader. See: George Khader "the Resistance and the Future Lebanon", al-Nahar, 12/8/2006. (in Arabic)
20 See the current Lebanese Government's ministerial statement on ‹http://www.pcm.gov.lb›
21 See: Poll Finds Support for Hezbollah's Retaliation, Daily Star, 9/7/2006.
22 This is also what Egyptian researcher Naser Hamed abu Zeid says, namely that those who say that Hezbollah has dragged Lebanon into a war to the advantage of third parties - specifically Iran and Syria - have to reconsider their positions. There is a clear difference between accepting assistance and subservience; subservience does not achieve victory. See: Naser Hamed abu-Zeid "For the Sake of a better Future: Don't Allow Politics to Turn Victory into Defeat", al-Safeer, 18/8/2006. (in Arabic)
23 See for example Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's interview with the Turkish Labor Party "Evrensel" on 12/13/2006, also published in Counterpunch News Service on 17/8/2006, in which he denies that Hezbollah is led by Tehran, says this is a big lie, and that the Party is an independent Lebanese organization that receives orders from no one. Also see Hersh, Watching Lebanon: Washington Interest in Israel's War; Anthony Cordesman: Lebanese Security and the Hezbollah, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Revised Working Draft, 14 July, 2006; and Iran's Support of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, CSIS, 15 July, 2006. Also see the report by Anthony Cordesman about the Israeli war on Lebanon in which he bases his findings on information in the media and that supplied by Israeli and Arab information and research centers, and on his visits to Israel and to the front during the war during which he spoke to senior Israeli officers and experts in: Anthonly H. Cordesman, Preliminary Lessons of the Israeli-Hezbollar War, CSIS, Revised Working Draft, 17 August 2006, pp. 15-16, in which he says that no Israeli serviceman, intelligence or military officer, felt that Hezbollah had acted (in this war) under orders from Iran or Syria. As to the issue of who was using whom, the unanimous answer was that all sides - Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria - were very happy to benefit from one another.
24 Cordesman "Preliminary Lessons of the Israeli-Hezbollah War", p. 2.
25 Reference to Hezbollah and Syria.
26 See Alexei Fishman, "Why didn't we Win", Yediot Ahronot, 18/8/2006; Zeev Schiff: "The Surprise of the War", "The War on Lebanon: Failed Strategy Management", Haaretz, 1/8/2006, and "The War in Lebanon: the Time that Remains", Haaretz, 3/8/2006; Akiva Eldar, "This is how we Fell into the Iranian Trap", Haaretz, 20/7/2006.
Stratfor, Special Report: The Battle Joined, 21 July, 2006; Guy Chazan, Karby Leggett, and Neil King, Why Israel's Plans to Curb Hezbollah Went so Poorly, Wall Street Journal, 19/8/2006, p. 1; and Uri Avnery, From Mania to Depression, 16 August, 2006.
27 See Yosi Firter "Impact of the war in Lebanon: the Prime Minister to the ministers: unilateral withdrawal is not longer on the agenda", Haaretz, 18/8/2006.
28 See: Akiva Eldar, "After the War: Livni appoints official in charge of potential negotiations with Syria", Haaretz, 20/8/2006.
29 Martin Jacques, American Support May no Longer be Enough: Israel's Long-term Future Lies in Connecting with its Arab Neighbors, not a Western Superpower Thousands of Miles Away, the Guardian, 14/8/2006.
30 Ronit Morgenstern, « The Cost of Rebuilding is 11 billion Shekels », Maariv, 15/8/2006.
31 See Jackie Hoji , « Failure of the Media" Maariv, 25/7.2006; Jonathan Cook, Lebanese Deaths, and Israeli War Crimes Kept off the Balance Sheet, Information Clearing House, 16 August, 2006.
32 Maariv, 16/8/2006.
33 See: David Hirst, Hizbullah Has Achieved What Arab States only Dreamed of, the Guardian, 17/8/2006.
34 A Saudi official had declared on 13/7/2006 that the "Kingdom clearly believes that there should be a difference between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventurism on the part of elements from within a state, or from behind its back, undertaken without coordination or the knowledge of the legal authorities and without any consultation or coordination with Arab countries".
Later on, a joint statement was issued at the end of a visit undertaken by King Abdullah II to Egypt on 14/7/2006 and his meeting with President Husni Mubarak. The statement warned of the "danger of the Middle East region slipping into a war that would thwart efforts leading to peace and opening the door for a new round of violence and tension the extent of which no one can predict." The statement also condemned the "the wide-scale Israeli operations in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories... etc.), and insisted on the "need to resolve the current dangerous situation on the Lebanese and Palestinian fronts that would involve the release of prisoners as a way to ending the current deteriorating situation." The statement underlined the "need for all parties in the region to exercise maximum restraint and responsibility and not undertake any irresponsible actions that would lead to an escalation and drag the region towards unpredictable confrontations the consequences of which would be borne by the states and people of the region." They emphasized the "need to maintain stability in the Middle East and prevent a deterioration of the situation in a manner that makes it difficult to reverse." The two leaders warned against "dragging the region into adventures that do not serve Arab interests and causes" and expressed their total support for the Lebanese Government... and the establishment of its authority on the entire country. See: "the Rulers of Egypt and Jordan Join the Saudi Position: the adventures of the resistance do not serve Arab interests", al-Safeer, 15/7/2006 (in Arabic), quoting news agencies. It is worth noticing that the very first statements by some Arab leaders were made after telephone calls by Mr. Bush on them to that effect. See: Richard Walffe. Backstage At The Crisis. Newsweek, July 31, 2006, pp 18-31, and specially the top column of p. 24, in which he reveals Mr. Bush's telephone contacts with King Abdullah of Jordan, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon, with the presence of Condalica Rise and Hadley (his security advisor).
It was also later reported in Newsweek about the involvement of Saudi Arabia, when it was mentioned that "Even the few countries that she ]Condalica Rise[ and Bush had pointed to as supporters, like Saudi Arabia, were now bitterly criticizing Israel's part in the war. And the Saudis were incensed that Washington publicized their initial statement blaming Hezbollah, using Riyadh to legitimize Israel's air campaign. See Michael Hirsh. Pounding The Keys. Newsweek, August 7, 2006, pp. 21.
35 The Arab Foreign Ministers' meeting held in Cairo on 15/7/2006 and issued the following statement:
1. Condemn the Israeli aggression on Lebanon that contravenes all international resolutions, laws and regulations, and salutes the spirit of martyrs and the steadfastness of the Lebanese people and their unity and solidarity which is essential in the face of aggression.
2. Express total solidarity with Lebanon and support its steadfastness in the face of this unjust aggression to which civilians are subjected, including the killing of innocent people and causing large-scale material and economic destruction.
3. Totally endorse Lebanon's complaint to the Security Council and in turn, requests the Security Council to adopt an immediate cease-fire resolution and raising the embargo on Lebanon.
4. Express their support for Lebanon's declared intention to adhere to and respect international legitimacy and the Blue Line.
5. Confirm their total support for the Lebanese Government in its determination to exercise its responsibility of protecting Lebanon and the Lebanese people and ensuring their safety, and reaffirm its right and duty to spread its authority over its entire territory and exercise its sovereignty inside and outside the country.
6. Consider Israel's ongoing destruction and killing of the Lebanese people makes the current situation even more difficult and complicated and leads to the undermining of stability, peace and security in the region.
7. Believe that Israel should bear the responsibility of compensating Lebanon for all the losses and destruction resulting from its aggression on the Lebanese territory.'
36 See the closing statement in al-Nahar, 8/8/2006, p. 5. (in Arabic)
37 See the complete text of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech in al-Anwar, 31/3/2006. (in Arabic)