The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Hezbollah and Israel: Too little progress

 Hezbollah and Israel
Hezbollah and Israel

Hezbollah and Israel

With the guns falling silent and the rocket attacks petering out, the U.N.-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah seems to be holding as it enters its sixth day. Thousands of Lebanese, free from the threat of violence, are jamming the cratered roads to return home; Israelis in the north are beginning to emerge from bomb shelters. The Israeli army is prepared to slowly cede territory to U.N. peacekeepers who then will transfer it to the Lebanese army, creating a Hezbollah-free “buffer zone” between northern Israel and southern Lebanon.

Yet all is not well. Though the bloodshed, for the most part, has stopped, the pursuit of peace in the region has been dealt a setback. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, set an impossible goal: the destruction of Hezbollah’s weapon stores and political power in Lebanon. This he failed to do. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, claimed that victory would be merely surviving against a larger and more powerful enemy. He and his organization have survived; this much is clearly demonstrated by the yellow banners strung across Lebanese towns.

While Israeli unity has crumbled and Olmert’s political enemies have fallen over themselves criticizing him, Hezbollah has been exalted and Nasrallah elevated to a modern-day Saladin. The notion of disarming Hezbollah or even evicting them from the south is a pipe dream. No one, not even U.N. diplomats or the foreign ministers of the various states, has any idea how to even begin disarming a military force that can emerge, hit a target, and melt back into the general gun-toting population. In addition, Lebanon semi-officially ceded its southern territory to Hezbollah 20 years ago, allowing it to operate as a state within a state.

None of this bodes well for peace efforts across the greater Arab world. A major fear is that the Palestinians will take heart and attempt another intifada in the West Bank, having seen Israel defeated by a lightly armed but highly motivated group of guerilla fighters, though this is an admittedly more remote possibility than it was under Yasser Arafat. Bear in mind, however, that the Palestinian state is governed by Hamas, a group that has pledged itself to Israel’s “destruction,” does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and makes no secret of its active paramilitary ties.

Since the beginning of active hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, a Hamas-Hezbollah-Syria-Iran alliance has emerged. The fact that this alliance crosses the traditionally hostile Sunni-Shia divide is demonstrative of the intense hatred that Israel inspires. The U.N.’s role in mediating further conflicts has also been brought into question.

Although the cease-fire is under the umbrella of Security Council Resolution 1701, it only became possible once the United States and France agreed to resolve their differences over what course of action Israel should take. United Nations diplomats routinely had difficulty contacting Hezbollah officials, much less those whom had any negotiating or decision-making power.

Yet the full impact of the cease-fire will most likely not be felt in Lebanon, or even the United Nations. That dubious honor belongs to Iran. Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar, who wrote his master’s thesis on Israel’s military intervention in Lebanon over the years, believes that neither Israel nor Hezbollah “won” the war; rather, the asymmetrical nature of the conflict forces us to look to a third party benefitting, in this case Iran.

“Iran emerged a winner on two accounts,” Javedanfar said. “It sent a strong message to Israel. In case our nuclear capability is attacked, this is a small sample of what you can expect in return, and it shows you can’t do much about it. And secondly,” he said, “Iran pushed Hezbollah to agree to the cease-fire. Iran could have forced Hezbollah to fight on for another year or two. Iran showed the world that it can play its card and is also willing to play along with the international community: Just remember that we can hurt you, but you can still do business with us.”

In the end, then, what exactly has been accomplished? The fighting has stopped, but Hezbollah will continue to be a presence in southern Lebanon and launch rocket attacks and raids. The United Nations peacekeeping force is too small and a temporary measure. The Lebanese army is incompetent and largely sympathetic to Hezbollah.

Formerly pro-, or at the very least, non-anti-American countries such as Egypt and Jordan have been forced to choose between Israel and America or Hezbollah. They have chosen the latter, even though it uncomfortably puts them in the same camp as Iran. The Hamas-Hezbollah-Syria-Iran alliance is strengthened by a perceived victory. America’s already wretched record has taken another hit by not calling for an immediate Israeli cease-fire. Israel is even more hated and is at war with itself.

The argument is not for continued conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. The underlying question of a separate Palestinian state must be resolved. Until the major powers can agree to resolve that specific dispute speedily and effectively, their coalitions will continue to fall apart and the extremists will continue to consolidate. At the end of the day, then, the cease-fire should give us a chance to pause and reflect on the roots of the conflict. If we don’t, we will continue our backwards progress until even a cease-fire is impossible.

 

John is a first-year finance and international studies double major. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

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