Toward a Multilateral Solution

In order to achieve a change of direction, like the pretentious name of the military operation, there is a need for a different policy orientation. Israel cannot and does not need to cope alone with the Iranian threat from Lebanon.

The rain of rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon, and the people who have been killed in Haifa and Nahariya, afford new meaning to security zones and separation fences. The Qassams from the Gaza Strip and the Katyushas from southern Lebanon are giving a bad name to unilateral withdrawal. It has been proved more than once that a mortal blow to the weapons arsenals of Islamic fanatics is only a partial solution. The assassination of leaders, as important as it might be, at best buys us a few weeks of quiet. And on the other side, the pragmatic elements, the ones who want calm and are interested in an agreement, are unable to wield any influence.

When behind Khaled Meshal and Hassan Nasrallah hides Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there is nothing to be look for with limping Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas or shaky Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. When it comes to associated issues, such as the Iranian nuclear program, bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the government of Lebanon are irrelevant.

In order to achieve a change of direction, like the pretentious name of the military operation, there is a need for a different policy orientation. Israel cannot and does not need to cope alone with the Iranian threat from Lebanon. Even a power like the United States needs a broad international coalition in order to influence the balance of power in the Middle East. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries are natural candidates for a bloc to thwart Islamic fundamentalism. For them to work hand in hand with the Jewish state for the isolation of Iran, Israel will have to pay hard cash. The price is accelerated negotiations that will lead to the end of the occupation in the West Bank. Even Syria, the "transit station" for the rockets on their way from Tehran to the Hezbollah strongholds, has a price.

With regard to the air force foray over the presidential palace in Damascus, Prof. Eyal Zisser of the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad isn't going to give up his country's traditional positions so fast, including its strategic cooperation with the Palestinian terror organizations. Zisser expects that a strong stance vis-a-vis American and Israeli pressures in fact increase public support for Assad within Syria and in the entire Arab world. Assad is not going to quarrel with Iran and he will not restrain the Hezbollah without significant political gain in return. This return, proposes the expert on Syria, can be the renewal of negotiations with Israel about the Golan Heights. The outlines of the negotiations with Syria, as well as with the Palestinians, lie in the Arab League resolution taken in Beirut in 2002 (stipulating normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel in exchange for withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967 and an agreed solution to the refugee problem, on the basis of United Nations Resolution 194). The initiative of the Saudi Arabian crown prince, which was adopted by the Arab League, says the road map "is a vital element of international efforts to promote a comprehensive peace on all tracks, including the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks." This document, which bears the signature of United States President George W. Bush, also stipulates that in Phase 3, which was intended for completion by the end of 2005, the international Quartet was supposed to convene an international conference that would start a process that would lead to a permanent status agreement in the territories, and move forwards toward a comprehensive settlement between Israel and Syria and Lebanon "to be achieved as soon as possible."

Until when will the sane world continue to allow the landlords in this neighborhood to run amok and alienate it from commitments and even essential interests in the region? In the road map plan the Quartet declared that it would support negotiations in an "active, sustained and operational" way. Both the Lebanese prime minister and the Palestinian chairman are inviting the United States and Europe, the UN and Russia to demonstrate their active, sustained and operational support by sending forces into their Kosovo. In Israel, too, the limitation of power against the rockets is likely to overcome the traditional fear of "internationalization of the conflict."

For those who have thwarted a bilateral solution to a bloody conflict between neighbors, for those who believed that this conflict has a unilateral solution, there now remains only the hope of a multilateral solution.