Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Israel Seeks Direct Peace Talks With Lebanon

No sooner than Israel confirmed its truce with Hamas in Gaza, government spokesman Mark Regev announced that it was seeking direct peace talks with Lebanon. Unlike Syria and Hamas in Gaza, Israel has talked to them through third parties - Turkey and Egypt, respectively. I suppose if there was one government Israel would want to talk to directly it would be Lebanon. Despite Israel's two wars in that country the quarrel on both occasions was never with the Lebanese government or the Lebanese people. In the 1982 War in Lebanon, Israel was fighting the PLO as well as Abu Nidal's forces who were using Lebanon as a base from which to attack Israel. The Lebanese government could do little to help as it was under the thumb of Syria. There were some forces in Lebanon sympathetic to Israel namely Bachir Gemayel who was elected President of Lebanon later that year. He would be assassinated nine days before he would take office. Nearly a quarter century later, Israel's quarrel in Lebanon was with Hezbollah. Again, the Lebanese government could do little to help matters as it was under the thumb of both Iran and Syria. Of course, Lebanese civilians were killed in both wars. Instead of blaming their occupiers, namely the Syrians and Iranians, the Lebanese political establishment - Muslim and Christian alike - blame Israel. Sadly, Prime Minister Saniora has declared that Lebanon is the last country that will make peace with Israel.

It's probably just as well. Israel, under Ehud Olmert, is reaching out to Lebanon in a position of weakness as opposed to a position of strength. Olmert is fighting for his political survival. The negotiations, even indirect ones, with Hamas and Syria seem haphazard and designed only to prolong his power. It also must be remembered that Hezbollah now has an effective veto over everything the Saniora government does in light of its revolt against the government last month. Surely, Olmert must know that as long as Iran through its proxy Hezbollah run the show in Lebanon there is no chance for peace with the Lebanese government. Hence the statement comes from Regev and not from his office. Perhaps he merely wants to give the appearance Israel is doing something to a critical international community. If that is the case the only thing that is visible to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah and others who hate Israel is desperation.

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