Neither the horror of history nor the arrogance of power can justify Israel in what it is doing in both Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. The political leadership in Israel has miserably failed in seeking a long lasting political solution to the conflict that is based on justice and respect for human rights. Instead it has relied on military strategists with a formidable and merciless military machine to prepare the ground for an eventual political solution that would impose a Pax Israeleana in the region. But the prospects of Pax Israeleana cannot be realized without the weight of the US Administration. This weight, as is increasingly evident, has continuously been eroded by ill advised wars in Iraq and elsewhere. The ongoing Lebanon war, irrespective of its outcome, has dealt yet another blow to the credibility of the American Administration.
The reliance on brute force to achieve convenient political results often leads politicians and militarists to go back to the drawing boards after the dust of war settles. Lessons learned are strictly of a military nature: how best to counter the tactics of the adversary guerrilla forces; to finish off with them in the quickest manner; to ensure that one’s forces and ingeniously adapted new military tactics would surprise the enemy. Israel has learned from its military history that the best wars are those won in less than 7 days. Then Israel and its politicians would rest without need for a serious political process to resolve long standing conflict with its neighbors. The military superiority would ensure that the advantageous status quo would always remain in Israel’s favor.
When one looks at Israel’s history, one is reminded of the messages that the late Foreign Minister of Israel, Abba Eban, used to broadcast in Arabic in the fifties on the eve of independence day urging Arabs to come to the peace table and signaling that Israeli politicians would go anywhere in the world to negotiate peace with their neighbors. Today, Israeli politicians are not concerned about peace or about negotiations. They lack the leadership element at a time when more than a dozen Arab countries have diplomatic and informal relations with the Jewish state. Or is it because of these relations that Israeli politicians do not care about genuine peace negotiations confident that all Arab states and politicians will eventually follow suit in normalizing relations with Israel without having Israel to pay any price for that?
The US Administration and Israeli image not simply in the Arab world but throughout the world has suffered tremendously. This image will come out even more tarnished than ever before when the war of Lebanon subsides. Likewise without a permanent just solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the US Administration and Israel politicians will remain in the minority when it comes to international decency, legitimacy and fairness. Much needs to be done by US Administration officials and by Israeli politicians to prove to the world that they are ready to subscribe to rules of international decency and legitimacy. Whether they will be able to successfully undertake this most challenging task remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: Israel is in need of a politician of the De Gaulle caliber but this is wishful thinking if one considers the present political establishment in Israel. The US Administration is in need to wake up but there is doubt that the present Administration will be able to forego its long slumber. Accordingly, the region will continue to be in political limbo and all of us will continue to pay the price, including those who believe in Tel Aviv and Washington that brute force will advance their political views and visions for the future of this region.
Dr. Bernard Sabella is Professor of Sociology at Bethlehem University. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Viriginia University and is a member of various Palestinian institutions. His scientific and research interest focuses on Palestinian society. He is the co-author of many academic publications and serves as the Executive Secretary of the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East Council of Churches.