Monday, August 07, 2006

Time for Playing

The ground fighting continued in southern Lebanon; people killed more people. An Israeli bombing of a shia neighborhood in Beirut killed fifteen people and wounded as many more. War fatigue and resignation spread among both Lebanese and Israeli publics. In August, many are usually on vacation, tourists flock to Lebanese beaches and Israelis go abroad. Now the Lebanese beaches are deserted and fouled with oil; many Lebanese are displaced, sleeping in schools and parks. Some have left the country, while others have actually returned to their bombed home towns, for nowhere else to go. Those Israelis still in the north sleep in the bomb shelters; a bit further south they stay home, some waiting to be mobilized, others worrying about friends and family who have been called.

Several blown scenes, wrong lines and poor acting highlight the differences between front stage and back stage in the unfolding political drama of bringing this sixth Arab-Israeli war to a close. In Beirut, Lebanese President F0uad Siniora gives an impassioned speech to the foreign ministers of Arab states. He asks their support for a seven point program that includes the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon, the subordination of Hizbullah forces to government control, and the sovereignty of Lebanon over all its territory. He demands a change in the cease-fire draft resolution so that it will tell Israel to withdraw immediately from Lebanon. The ministers applaud as much for his determination to put a subnational militia under state authority as his wanting Israel out. Then he breaks down in tears describing the physical destruction of his country, one thousand dead so far, and the death of forty more people today in Israel’s bombing of Hulea in southern Lebanon. But wait -- only one person, not forty died in Hulea. After the ministers have left for New York to present the case for changing the draft resolution language, Siniora admits the mistake: Fortunately the first reports were wrong, people buried in the rubble of a collapsed building were rescued. His slip reminds us that he is posturing: not insincerely, but not boldly, either toward Hizbullah, the Security Council or even Israel. A deal with Hizbullah, whatever its provisions, has already been cut. Later in the day, the Lebanese cabinet, including two Hizbullah ministers, votes unanimously to deploy the Lebanese army in the south. The government spokesperson announces that after the deployment of the army in about ten days, Hizbullah will operate in the south only as a political party representing an integral part of the population.

In Texas, George Bush stumbles through some words supporting the draft resolution. He is unrehearsed and uncertain of the meaning of what he says. But he is sure that Hizbullah is still a proxy for Syria and Iran. Israel must stay in Lebanon, until an international force is there to prevent these sponsors from rearming their client. Bad choice of words, George! You've greenlighting an occupaiton, after you greenlighted an invasion. The French foreign minister said it better in addressing the same point. He told Lebanon that it needed to consider it was not the only party to the crisis. Bush’s words might cause a few more days wrangling at the Security Council, by the diplomats playing to their domestic audiences, until some cosmetic changes are made in the draft. The changes will probably call for something like Israel’s withdrawal "as troops are securely deployed and monitoring assured.”

In Israel preparation for the “Day After” the cease fire grinds forward. Relevant ministers and army commanders are getting their stories or excuses ready for the storm of criticism that many Israelis are willing to defer until then. The head of Northern Command, who is directly responsible for combat operations, says the army has a new plan for driving Hizbullah rockets out of range. It involves moving forces far deeper into Lebanon, but, he complains to journalists, the government is not unleashing the army. The Prime Minister’s office says Olmert has not seen a plan, and Olmert says if the rockets keep falling on Israel, there will be no stopping IDF. Defense Minister Amir Peretz says unless the cease-fire resolution comes in a few days, Israel will move its forces to the Litani and even further. Apparently after two weeks of inconclusive fighting around the same villages, the generals think they can now deal speedily with the guerillas. We probably will not find out if they are right. Despite the bravado, the Israel government would prefer a cease-fire, even if it has to wait through this weekend. Read the threats as a way of speeding up the process. And it is trying to neutralize the Lebanese and other Arab objections to the draft resolution by raising its own demands. These include more emphasis on stopping arms shipments and no inclusion of the Shebaa Farms area as a matter of negotiations with Lebanon. The government can drop that last demand for a resoultion otherwise similar to the present draft.

Today’s question: Why didn’t these events happen last week?


Anonymous Shlomo said...

I cannot answer your question, it is too much like a school essay, and one thing is sure that this is no time for kindergarten. Atik, even in these times we need good writing, and what I see in today's post is your omniscience. You sketch for us how it is in Lebanon, how it is with G. Bush, and how it is for some in Israel. Atik, this I like.
One question: you have so much information, I wonder if maybe you are really a newspaper reporter, this blog your personal outlet--because how else would anyone have the time to follow so many threads? Me, I work all day, I sweat on the bus, I come home, there are my children, and the wife is in a grumpy mood from being with the children all day, so right away she hands me the youngest, only six months old, a daughter after three sons, so of course she has me wrapped, this little one. Anyway, what I want to say, Atik, is that you must have time that I do not have. For this reason, I hold my Chava in my arms, I read your daily post, and then I feel I too have spent more of my day digesting the news.
Please do not take offense; I am, like you, only speaking my mind. Thank you, Atik, for listening.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Montag said...

Israel's tactics in Lebanon are like the Medieval "chevauchee" or promenade--Wikipedia has a short entry of explanation. The idea was that you'd march into your enemy's country with an armed force, kill, burn and loot to your heart's content--and then march back across the border taking pleasure in a job well done. The purpose was to degrade your enemy's resources, making it difficult for him to wage war against you. The Crusaders tended to do this as their territory retreated to the sea for the last time.

But sometimes you got the bear, and sometimes the bear got you. In 1266, a chevauchee towards Tiberias under King Hugh III of Cyprus, bailli of Jerusalem, ended in disaster when its vanguard of Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights was ambushed at Caroublier by the Moslem garrison of Safed. I guess the IDF knows the feeling now.

12:35 PM  

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