Hezbollah / Nasrallah Has Time

Hassan Nasrallah yesterday defined his cease-fire model: "When you stop attacking our cities and villages, we won't attack a single Israeli community."

The strategy of mutual deterrence remains fundamental to Nasrallah's military and political philosophy.

Hezbollah, says Nasrallah, only responds measure for measure - Tel Aviv for Beirut, an attack deep in Israel for an attack deep in Lebanon. That is the balance Nasrallah has maintained for six years and has no intention of giving up. Hence, the cease-fire is not merely a practical cessation of fire, but comes with attached conditions, as Nasrallah's deputy, Sheikh Naim Kassem, said yesterday.

The cease-fire consists of three components - stopping Israel's attacks, removing all Israeli troops from Lebanese soil, and returning the Lebanese refugees to the villages they fled from in the south of the country; in other words, restoring the pre-July 12 situation.

With such conditions, Hezbollah wishes to clarify not only what it would consider an achievement, but also that from its own point of view, the fighting could go on.

Hezbollah is conducting a violent dialogue not only with Israel but with the Lebanese government, using the present stage of the campaign to set the terms for the arrangement now being drafted in various world capitals.

Lebanon's conditions for a settlement have received international and Arab support. They consist of an immediate cease-fire, the return of the refugees to their homes, the deployment of the Lebanese army along the border, the strengthening of the international force, a prisoner-exchange deal, the reconstruction of Lebanon, and an Israeli pullout from the Shaba Farms area.

By declaring his own separate conditions, Nasrallah is claiming a right to veto any Lebanese government decisions, and establishing himself as a central power that must be reckoned with. He is saying that any agreement with Lebanon will be invalid without his approval.

He wishes to demonstrate that for him, time is not a consideration, and that his ability to conduct a war of attrition against Israel is far from exhausted.

Hence, it may be assumed that Hezbollah does feel pressed to reach a cease-fire, and that Syria and Iran's support assures Nasrallah of the ongoing supply of weapons and money. Nasrallah has become a player in the inter-Arab space, straddling the divides between Iran, Syria and the other Arab states. His mockery of Arab leaders yesterday for staying glued to their seats expose him as a threat that could rally the Arab masses.

The emergency convention of Muslim states in Malaysia yesterday shows that Nasrallah has successfully presented the conflict as an all-out war against Lebanon, rather than a war against an organization.