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Commentary Last Updated: Sep 13th, 2006 - 02:18:03

Israeli trap for Lebanon
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 13, 2006, 02:15

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Following Israel�s military defeat in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is attempting to woo Beirut, offering to negotiate over the Shebaa Farms as a precursor to a possible peace treaty. In response, his Lebanese counterpart Fouad Siniora promised Lebanon would be the last Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel.

Peace is undoubtedly preferable to enmity as a rule but, in this case, Siniora is right to refuse Israeli overtures.

�Let it be clear, we are not seeking any agreement until there is a just and comprehensive peace based on the Arab initiative," he stated at the end of last month.

From the Israeli perspective a peace deal with Lebanon would be quite a coup. First, it wouldn�t have to worry about Hezbollah�s rockets any longer but, equally important, Lebanon would provide a friendly buffer between northern Israel and Syria.

This would mean Israel would have amicable relations with all its neighbors apart from the occupied territories and Syria on the other side of the occupied Golan Heights.

Thus, its military arm would be strengthened with one less hostile front with which to contend, the Palestinians would be left even more in the cold than they already have been, while Syria would be effectively isolated with any future bargaining power concerning the Golan severely reduced.

Israel�s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: �It�s not that Lebanon does not want to enter the peace process. Syria would probably not let her do it."

Indeed, if Lebanon were to sign up to such a process, it�s more than likely Syria would seal its border crossings leaving northern Lebanon landlocked and forcing it to rely on Israel for the import and export of goods by road. Given Israel�s record of closing its frontiers at a whim, this would leave the Lebanese at Israel�s mercy.

Syria has for several years indicated its readiness to talk peace based on the return of the Golan and has been rejected every time. So it seems that the Israeli government is being deliberately divisive as there is nothing preventing it from offering to negotiate simultaneously with Lebanon and Syria if peace and security were genuinely its true objective.

In truth, Israel desires pieces of land far more than peace. It doesn�t mind handing over the tiny Shebaa Farms area to Lebanon if push comes to shove.

However, it has always considered hanging on to the Golan Heights a strategic necessity.

It�s a similar land grab story in the West Bank where Israel�s apartheid wall has gobbled up swathes of Palestinian land and where Israel�s illegal colonies are scheduled to expand in spite of calls from the international community to halt construction.

And now that Olmert�s so-called �convergence plan� has landed on the garbage heap of broken promises, it may be only a matter of time before Israel comes up with a pretext to reoccupy Gaza.

Officially Israel says it still adheres to the �road map� that is looking more and more like a figment of the American president�s imagination, pulled out of his baseball cap to bring hesitant countries on board the invasion of Iraq. Israelis say this is the only game in town.

In reality, there is another option that would bring permanent peace not only to Israel but also to the entire region. It�s an enhanced version of the plan fielded by Saudi Arabia during the 2002 Arab League Summit held in Beirut, based on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the principle of land for peace.

It�s a wonderful opportunity for Israel because it is backed by all 22 members of the Arab League.

The Israeli response has been lukewarm but as Jordan�s King Abdallah recently told Time magazine, �Do Israelis want to have to still walk out of their houses with an Uzi on their shoulder� and �do mothers still have to worry whether or not their children are going to come back safely from a mall or a restaurant?�

�We need to know from the Israelis right now their long-term vision of what they see as peace. Is this going to be fortress Israel? Or is Israel going to be integrated into the area?�

There is no doubt that Arab nations have decided to become more proactive when it comes to their own affairs, perhaps having decided that the US has little semblance to an honest broker, while interest shown by Britain�s Tony Blair has more to do with his political legacy than serious heartfelt commitment.

We saw the results of this new unity of Arab purpose when a delegation, consisting of the Foreign Ministers of the UAE and Qatar, joined Arab League chief Amr Moussa in making direct representation to the UN Security Council in respect of Lebanon�s rights under UN Resolution 1701.

Arabs now need to unify so as to put pressure on Israel to behave like a responsible component of this region and to this end it would behoove Egypt and Jordan -- countries that have signed peace agreements with Israel -- to threaten the severing of diplomatic relations.

In fact, during the recent conflict a number of Egyptian parliamentarians called for just that.

When then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his historic flight to Tel Aviv in 1977, on what he called his �sacred mission,� he handed the Israelis an olive branch in hopes that all Arab nations would follow suit. With the exception of Jordan some 17 years later, this never happened.

In light of worsening Israeli aggression perhaps it is time for Egypt and Jordan to reevaluate those treaties. Israel should be given the choice: All or nothing. Peace with all its neighbors or with none.

As one of the region�s most moderate pro-Western leaders King Abdallah of Jordan recently said, �All of us in the area, including the Israelis, are feeling more and more insecure. Nobody knows where this is taking us. The peace camp needs to turn the boat around in the other direction. If not, we sink, all of us."

Still in shock from the unnecessary devastation wrought upon it, with its people still dying from cluster bombs sprinkled by Israel all over the south in the final hours of the conflict, Lebanon thankfully isn�t falling for Israel�s divisive tactics.

Like the Palestinians, the Lebanese need the political, economic and moral support of their Arab cousins, who hopefully will reach the conclusion, albeit belatedly, it�s all for one and one for all.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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