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From War to Peace
case of conflict. Moderate Arab governments understand full well the issue at stake in this war: it is about regional hegemony in the case of Syria with Lebanon and Palestine and, on a wider level, Iranâs hegemonic claim to the entire Middle East. Yet the war in Lebanon and Gaza could prove to be a miscalculation for the radicals. By firing missiles on Haifa, Israelâs third-largest city, a boundary has been crossed. From now on, the issue is no longer primarily one of territory, restitution, or occupation. Instead, the main issue is the strategic threat to Israelâs existence. The rejectionist front has underestimated Israelâs determination and capacity for deterrence. It has proven that there is no way back to the status quo in Lebanon, and it revealed Iranâs hegemonic aspirations to the entire world. The folly of this is readily apparent, because it doesnât require much imagination to see what the Middle East would look like if an Iranian nuclear umbrella were shielding the radicals. This miscalculation will become obvious as four developments unfold:
UN Resolution 1559 - which requires the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon with the help of the international community - is enforced and a return to the status quo rendered impossible;
todayâs de facto "anti-hegemon" coalition, comprising moderate Arab countries (including moderate Palestinians), is transformed into a robust and serious peace initiative;
the Middle East Quartet, led by the US becomes actively engaged for a viable solution and provides the necessary political, economic, and military guarantees to sustain it over time.
Israel has a key role to play here. Twice, it withdrew its troops unilaterally behind its recognized borders, namely from southern Lebanon and Gaza. Both times, Israelâs land-for-peace formula resulted in land for war. Now, with Israelâs existence under threat, peace with its Arab neighbors seems a more distant prospect than ever.
I believe that todayâs war in Lebanon can open up a new opportunity for peace. The sooner the guns are silenced in Lebanon the better. But letâs not forget the warâs starting point: the clash within Hamas over whether to recognize Israel. And letâs not forget the attitude of moderate Arab governments toward this war and to the hidden intentions of those who sought it.
Israelâs security makes a restructuring of Lebanonâs internal organization and a guarantee of its state sovereignty nonnegotiable. Now is the time to play the Syrian card and bring President Bashar al-Assad onto the path of normalization. With the Golan Heights, Israel has the key element in its hand. Without Syria, Iran would be alone. Iraq, too, would profit from such a development.
Finally, things are not as hopeless for the Palestinians as they may seem. In Israelâs prisons, a consensus has developed among leading Fatah and Hamas Palestinian inmates on accepting a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. This new Palestinian realism must be supported. But there can be no way past the historic date of June 1967 (for both sides).
In Israel, has the realization of a new strategic threat made debates about land and settlements seem obsolete? Because this war is directed against Israelâs existence, strategic and thus regional security will gain much greater emphasis.
How then, will Israel define its security in the future? Currently, Israel emphasizes massive deterrence, but it would be well advised to utilize the political and diplomatic possibilities presented by this war and take the initiative from a position of strength to offer a comprehensive peace to all those who are ready to recognize its existence and permanently renounce violence, not just in word, but also in deed.
Now is the time to think big! This applies not only to Israel and its neighbors, but to the US and Europe as well. This war offers a chance for lasting peace. We must not let it slip away.
Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences, 2006.
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