The Magnificent Seven were called in for a special session. Once more there is the threat of escalation in the north - Lebanon. This country that likes Turkish coffee, which according to legend should be boiled seven times before serving, is once more threatening to explode. Lebanon is now tensely awaiting the indictment for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
But what did the forum of seven senior ministers see that led them to discuss a possible escalation? After all, this indictment has preoccupied Lebanon for many months. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's threat to consider "changing the structure of Lebanon's system of government" is nothing new, and his accusations that Israel is responsible for the killing are known. Saudi Arabia and Syria are in constant dialogue, in which France, Turkey, Qatar, Iran and the United States are also involved in a bid to reach a compromise that would prevent friction and preserve the country's stability.
The son of the deceased, Lebanon's current prime minister Saad Hariri, has made it clear he will not allow Lebanon to be destroyed, not even to preserve his father's honor. He and Nasrallah agree that the Saudi-Syrian formula, whatever it may be, will be an appropriate framework to respond to the indictment. Turkey has proposed that the publication of the indictment be postponed by a year, and Saudi Arabia tried to prevent its release. It's clear to everyone that its publication may spark a new wave of violence in Lebanon.
Hariri tribunal cartoon 28.11.10
Israel and Egypt are probably the only two countries in the region eager to see how the international tribunal will indict Hezbollah and its secretary general. The hell with Lebanon, as long as it's possible to condemn Nasrallah once again. Let justice see the light, despite the cost. We'll be ready. As always. After all, the forum of seven has already discussed, recommended and approved an Israeli response if Hezbollah launches even a single small missile. Four summers have passed without war in Lebanon. Prophecies are not coming true. The situation is intolerable. Maybe this time we'll succeed; maybe the Hariri trial will rescue Israel from the corner it has painted itself into.
But the issue is not the usual question of whether there will be war. It's the blatant lack of interest in domestic political, social and cultural affairs of countries where there is a potential for instability. What does Israel really know about what is going on in Lebanon? What is the personal relationship between Saad Hariri and Hassan Nasrallah? Will the Druze take part in a civil war if one breaks out? Is the Christian community ready to get into another civil war for the sake of a murdered Sunni prime minister? Is there any relation between Beirut's high housing prices and the risk of war?
To what extent is Israel really interested in events in Iran, beyond the question of how many centrifuges are operating? To what extent is Israel aware of the domestic disagreements between the supreme leader and the important religious-law experts in the city of Qom? Or of the strike by the bazaar merchants several weeks ago in response to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plan to impose a value added tax? Who exactly is following Syria's deteriorating economic situation? Has anyone heard that Jordan held elections last week? That it now has a new government? By the way, what's the name of Jordan's new prime minister?
Today there are parliamentary elections in Egypt and news reports, if any, will probably discuss the "threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood," anticipating the death of President Hosni Mubarak and speculating about the future of peace with Israel. What do we know about Egypt's education system? What does the new generation think? How much do meat and flour cost in that poor country?
Has anyone heard that Saudi King Abdullah is undergoing tests in the United States for a ruptured disk? How stable is the kingdom? A recent study discussed the number of anti-Semitic texts in the Saudi education system, but what about the battle the king is waging against religious extremism, or about efforts to gain employment for women in various professions?
The number of missiles, Nasrallah's vitriol, incitement by an esoteric preacher, routine statements by Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust - this is the way the Israeli imagination gets its insight into the Middle East. Nuance, variety of opinion, rational voices, internal debates over principles and forms of governance - all these are not picked up on Israel's radar. They only interfere in efforts to imagine a threat.
So will there be war with Lebanon? It depends on Israel.
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