No analogy with Lebanon
Once, Hezbollah could dictate ideology to the Lebanese government, which was forced to give it a free hand. Now it is a dangerous burden, which, with one incautious step, could topple the revitalized Lebanese economy and cause more than $3 billion in lost revenue for the Syrians.
The terror attack near Kibbutz Metzuba spoke to the prophets of the past like a gift from Lebanon. Those who cry out "we told you so," and opposed the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, were suddenly resurrected and preparing to don their combat gear and pick up their guns to reconquer Lebanon.
They believe that the more Israel's borders leak into neighboring countries, the safer Israel will be. They want a security zone in Lebanon, a buffer zone inside the Palestinian Authority - and if it's possible to reoccupy the entire West Bank and Gaza - so much the better.
But as they head into the past to shore up their arguments, they appear to have forgotten what happened. Israel and Lebanon did not sign a peace agreement because there was nobody with whom to sign the agreement. Lebanon remained an enemy state, whose southern border continues to be dangerous. Even while Israel was occupying parts of Lebanon, Hezbollah launched Katyushas, firing on outposts and settlements. True, the annual average of casualties in Lebanon - 25 soldiers a year - has turned into the monthly average in the territories, and is no longer impressive. But when Israel was in Lebanon, there wasn't an armed uprising in the territories and 25 casualties a year seemed a lot bloodier.
Hezbollah has beefed up its presence along the border since the Israeli withdrawal but along with that increased military presence, it has been tied down much more than it ever was during the occupation. Once Lebanon's liberation army, enjoying a broad Lebanese, Syrian and pan-Arab consensus, it has been turned into a local organization that has to take the political and economic considerations in Lebanon - and Syria - into consideration.
Once, Hezbollah could dictate ideology to the Lebanese government, which was forced to give it a free hand. Now it is a dangerous burden, which, with one incautious step, could topple the revitalized Lebanese economy and cause more than $3 billion in lost revenue for the Syrians, because when Hezbollah attacks and Israel responds, the reconstruction effort in Lebanon, which employs more than one million Syrians, will come to a halt.
While during the Israeli occupation, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had to pay lip service to Hezbollah, the organization has now become his political opponent and economic enemy. After the attack near Metzuba, Lebanon was quick to deny vehemently that the attackers came from its territory, and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah didn't broadcast the pictures of "the heroes," nor announce his organization's responsibility for the "quality attack."
Hezbollah aids the Palestinian organizations and apparently also provides money-laundering services to them, but when the Israel Defense Forces were in Lebanon, Hezbollah was not a member of the World Zionist Organization.
With the IDF withdrawal, the border in the north went back to being a "normal" border between two countries at war. Over that border, the Lebanese and Palestinian refugees can see the images from the territories. Yet, despite all their capabilities to take an active role and turn the northern border into hell, they have so far made do with sporadic attacks and only one terror attack inside Israel.
Even demagoguery doesn't allow using the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon as a reason to oppose an IDF withdrawal from the territories because it seems that everyone would be ready to accept the level of violence now emanating from Lebanon in exchange for an IDF withdrawal.
There is, however, another significant reason for not comparing the two withdrawals. The IDF withdrawal from Lebanon was total. It did not leave a single excuse for the Lebanese government to continue the war out of Lebanese interests. An IDF withdrawal from the territories won't be like that. Even if not a single soldier remains in the territories, there would still be 200,000 Jews to maintain the Israeli occupation. As long as they are there, no analogy with Lebanon is convincing.
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