End the Occupation - but Only in Lebanon

Israel could withdraw from Shaba Farms, which no longer serve any security purpose. But why on earth should it do this? First of all, Syria the occupier should get out of Lebanon, and then we will see.

The joy that swept over democracy lovers in Israel was understandable. Finally, Arab public opinion, or what is customarily referred to as the "Arab street," stands up against its maker, dismantles its appointed government and seeks to be liberated from occupation in order to sustain an independent state.

We are not talking about the Palestinian Authority, of course, which held free elections and aspires to free itself of Israeli occupation. The PA still has a long way to go before Israeli democracy recognizes Palestinian democracy and independence. We will apparently not be able to read about this in Natan Sharansky's manifesto on democracy.

This time, it was Lebanon that Israel was so excited to watch as it threw out the Syrian puppet government. It reached the point that Uri Lubrani even reported that "Lebanese personages" approached Israel for assistance in the process. So Lebanon should remember, if it achieves democracy, to whom it owes this. Indeed, it is hard to resist the longing for the period of the Phalangists.

Just to calm those who note the "historic moments" in the Middle East, Lebanon is the freest country in the region. Its parliament has real power and its newspapers and electronic media demarcated the boundaries of freedom of expression before Al Jazeera did so. Anti-establishment satire has existed there for a long time and its citizens, even more than the citizens of Turkey, regard themselves as more Western than Arab.

But this is not the main point. Three occupying countries remain in the Middle East: Syria, Israel and the United States. The two Western occupiers are now demanding that the Arab occupying state desist from occupying. In its honor, they pushed for the Syria Accountability Act - legislation enabling sanctions to be applied, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559.

The status of this resolution is no different than that of resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israel to withdraw from the territories it conquered. Israel countered these resolutions with a legalistic argument, claiming it was not a case of occupation, but rather of liberation - or at most, a case of administered territories. That is, a deposit. Syria has a literary argument similar to that of Israel: the government of Lebanon invited it into the country. And the United States, of course, came to Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But without any such weaponry, it will make due with establishing democracy.

But this is also not the main point. The hypocrisy of occupying states is nothing new and the attempt to find differences between one occupier and another always requires semantic juggling. The main thing in relation to Lebanon, from Israel's perspective, is also not democracy in Lebanon, which is not expected to bring a peace accord between Israel and Lebanon any closer for the time being.

The thing that should raise concern in Israel is the collapse of another intelligence and political paradigm, according to which Syria rules and directs everything that happens in Lebanon. It may be that Syria barely controls what transpires in Lebanon. During the years of the Lebanon War and the five years since the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from Lebanon, Israel ignored the fact that there were forces active within Lebanon that are capable of determining the state's future - forces that detest Syria no less than they detest Israel.

The Israeli conception was that if Syria is delivered a blow, then Hezbollah will also quiet down and perhaps even Iran will behave more meticulously. Suddenly, it turns out that even Hezbollah maintained close ties with the late Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in order to reach some sort of political accord. Now the opposition is hastening to Hassan Nasrallah's door to remind him that he owes his allegiance to Lebanon and not to Syria. The same terror organization against which Israel is mobilizing all of its diplomatic forces is liable to turn out to be the organization that determines the political strength of a democratic opposition that everyone is now cheering, justifiably. If Hezbollah joins it, the opposition could form a government and reap great reward in the parliamentary elections.

It may suddenly dawn on Israel that the weakening of Syria's control in Lebanon enhances the power of the more dangerous enemy, Hezbollah. Israel, of course, has a way to neutralize the Hezbollah threat, or at least reduce it. It could withdraw from Shaba Farms, which no longer serve any security purpose. But why on earth should it do this? First of all, Syria the occupier should get out of Lebanon, and then we will see.