Why Rice's Truce Won't Happen
I hope I am wrong when I write this, but the risibly incompetent U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is suffering from confabulation when she claims that a ceasefire and truce between Israel and Hezbollah can both be accomplished within a week. The reason—and it has already been given a number of times by Israeli officials—is that to end the hostilities now would represent a victory for Hezbollah. From Jerusalem's perspective, a victorious Hezbollah (meaning one that wasn't destroyed through a three-week air campaign) would send a message to the world that Israel's powerful military is weaker than was originally believed, and that states and non-state actors in the region are free to fire missiles into Israeli territory with impunity. Again, Israel's hallucinogenic and pathologically paranoid view of the world prevents its leaders from taking a more logical (and peaceful) course. Propaganda aside, everybody except Israel itself has by now reached the conclusion that the total destruction of the Jewish state is an impossible and self-defeating task. In other words, no state in the region is suicidal (remember, Israel has nuclear weapons and is backed by the most powerful military in history); only a few individuals are, and this tactic is going nowhere fast. What is needed is accommodation—but a just one; not a peace that leaves millions of Palestinians under a military occupation that treats them as less than human or exposes Lebanon to the occasional Israeli violation of its territory and/or airspace or the murder of hundreds of its civilians every ten years or so.
Unless Hezbollah agrees to Israel's demands of demobilization—which under the current conditions it certainly won't—Israel will not back off. But its propaganda machine will assuredly do its utmost to demonstrate that Israel wanted a truce, a ceasefire, Peace. But Hezbollah, the big bad Hezbollah, the threat to civilization as we know it, didn't. Once again, Israeli aggression will be made acceptable as a result of their opponents' refusal to accept the unacceptable demands of the Jewish state. This has been Israel's strategy with the Palestinians, and see how long it has worked: for thirty-nine years now it has been able to bomb, raze, surround and occupy Palestinian cities and villages, arrest, assassinate and commit a plethora of human rights violations against its people, break or simply ignore dozens of UN resolutions, and destroy all the foundations of a viable state, with little more than polite diplomatic objection. "Deeply concerned”and "outraged" are but empty words if they are not accompanied by concrete action. Every time, the Palestinians were made to look as if they were responsible for the failure of the Peace Process, without anyone ever questioning the validity and viability of the Israeli offer on the table.
Wait and see. Israel is unequalled in its mastery of the art. In the next few days, Hezbollah will face similar accusations, and Israel will have Rice's unmitigated support. "Hezbollah refused peace," Israel and the U.S. (and likely the UK, which yet again has demonstrated how incapable it is of coming up with anything that departs from the official line written in the White House) will say. The aggression against the Lebanese people will therefore resume (or continue), possibly with a change in tactic, as the air campaign has clearly shown that it can't achieve the unachievable results that Israel has set for its military. Increasingly, the pressure within Israel, coming mostly from retired generals, who still exert a lot of influence, is forcing the IDF towards a ground invasion. It will be costly, ugly, and aside for resulting in more murders and loss of life, it won't achieve much. But it'll be all Hezbollah's fault.
The current 48-hour ceasefire, Israeli authorities argue, should give Lebanese more time to evacuate the southern part of the country (it also gives Israel room to breathe and wait for the international outrage resulting from Qana to abate, as it always does). The problem with Israel's contention regarding the time it is giving Lebanese to evacuate is that many of the people who chose to stay behind (that is, who chose not to leave their homes and livelihoods behind and relocate elsewhere, perhaps in Syria) did so because it was impossible for them to move. It wasn't a choice. Many couldn't because they had sick and elderly people under their care, or could not afford transportation. Many others couldn't move because most of the roads that would have taken them elsewhere have been bombed by Israel's military. According to Human Rights Watch, despite the warnings that Israel gave residents in South Lebanon in recent days, its military still must do its utmost to avoid, and if this is impossible minimize, civilian casualties. In other words, by assuming that whoever had stayed behind in South Lebanon was invariably Hezbollah (women and children seeking refuge in a residential building among them), Israel committed war crimes, for which its leadership should be held accountable (but most certainly won't, despite the alleged ongoing investigation into the Qana bombing). Remember: a prominent war criminal was voted into office by the Israelis. He's currently on his death bed, his actions over decades having achieved nothing but death and destruction, and no increase whatsoever in security for Israel.
Let us hope it never comes to this, but sad to say, it increasingly appears as if the only way Israel will ever choose to negotiate fairly (and therefore the only occasion when the "true, enduring peace" Western leaders keep speaking of without providing any context will be achievable) is when it is surrounded by states and non-states armed with powerful enough an arsenal as is capable of bringing about the total destruction of the Jewish state. This is not what the neighborhood wants, but if it continues along the path it has set for itself since 1967, Israel might just give rise to a self-fulfilling prophecy. A people can only be lied to, humiliated and murdered—all of this under western eyes—for so long.
Who wants to bet? I put all my money on Hezbollah being made the bad guy, the enemy of peace.