The presence of Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer on the northern border was enough to set in motion an intensive international diplomatic campaign aimed at dissuading Hezbollah from sparking another flare-up in the area. True, no one can be certain that there will not be a flare-up, as the country in question is in a state of war with Israel; but suddenly it becomes clear how potent deterrence is when it is directed at a country that has something to lose.
Today's Lebanon is not the same state it was when Israel withdrew its forces from the south of the country. It is no longer a country that is fully mobilized for the sake of the "goal," or whose leaders do not dare criticize Hezbollah, or the Syrian military presence in the country, as long as the "Zionist enemy" is on its soil; because in Lebanon, too, as in Israel or among the Palestinians, "in an emergency, we're all united." That slogan has been shelved in Lebanon.
At the end of the week, elections for the local councils will be held in southern Lebanon. The government has festively declared that it has invested some $25 million to install new telephone switchboards in the region, and the south is increasingly becoming an integral part of the country, even though the Lebanese army is not deployed along the border and Hezbollah has placed its positions right across from those of the Israel Defense Forces.
If there is something that is currently deterring Hezbollah from taking action, it is not the fear of an IDF response; it is the domestic Lebanese front. Syria doesn't need another horror show put on by Lebanese intelligence, which at its orders arrested Christian activists who were demanding a Syrian withdrawal from the country. The Lebanese government needs foreign investors, who insist on total quiet. The intellectual discourse in Lebanon no longer focuses on the war, but on amending the constitution and improving the quality of life. These are the cogent arguments that have been heard in the past few months in the face of the war ambitions voiced by Hezbollah.
The fantasy of a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is apparently based on the successful Lebanon model, yet it ignores the differences. Lebanon is a country with recognized borders, with an economic and political infrastructure and with firm civil forces, which not even Syria can ignore. Anything resembling this has been destroyed in the Palestinian Authority, where the difference between the civil society and the fighting forces has been completely blurred.
The Palestinian civil society doesn't have anything to cling to so as to push for a political act that would supplant the war. The Palestinian economy is non-existent; freedom of movement has become a nightmare; instead of a political leadership, there is a uniformed personage who spends his time traveling all over the world; and just as the case in Israel, no one knows what the war is about anymore. The Palestinians, too, find it difficult to identify their goals.
Without agreed borders inside of which there will be a state that will be able to forge an alliance with its citizens and place in their hands the decision on how they want to live, the Palestinians are seeing that they have to go through the Lebanese experience - a renewed, even if temporary, occupation of territories and the destruction of houses and property as an Israeli act of revenge aimed at forcing the population to put pressure on its leadership, or at least on the violent gangs that are operating alongside the leadership.
If this is the path to follow, the Palestinians think, maybe it will end the same way the Lebanese story ended: a final withdrawal by the Israel Defense Forces. However, in the absence of an agreed border, and with dozens of settlements scattered in the territories, all the Israelis and the Palestinians can share between them is the fantasy of withdrawal.
In the case of Lebanon, a United Nations commission could demarcate a withdrawal border and restate the geographic framework with which each state was to be make do, while leaving no more than a small area of dispute - thereby satisfying Lebanon's desire not to establish a peace agreement with Israel, as well as Israel's security needs.
Lebanon received its borderline, which was adopted by most of its citizens; the West Bank and the Gaza Strip need a little something extra - a borderline that would be acceptable, first and foremost, to the citizens of Israel. It would have to be a clean line, which would create an entire state without satellites in the other state, without civilian representations in the form of settlements and without military points of friction.
The State of Israel had a border like that before 1967, and anyone who wants to copy the model of the withdrawal from Lebanon can do so only within that border.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now