Hizbullah will keep on winning until Israel plays by a new set of rules

Hizbullah did more than honor a promise when it wrapped up its exchange of prisoners and bodies with Israel on Wednesday: The resistance movement also closed yet another chapter in the long history of its struggle with the Jewish state – and, again, did so in a manner that prevented the Israelis from dictating the outcome. The only issues still outstanding are ones of real estate, and here the potential for Hizbullah and the Lebanese state to work in concert is considerable. There is a good chance that now, having repeatedly been bested in a game whose rules they authored, the Israelis will be more susceptible to the genuine diplomacy that their governments have traditionally disdained. That may or may not entail negotiations of some sort, but it must include a retreat from the logic of force and, therefore, compliance with multiple UN Security Council resolutions by withdrawing from Lebanese territory it still occupies.

President Michel Sleiman has begun to lay the groundwork for this next stage by meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, in Paris. Coordination with Damascus is a virtual prerequisite for any effort to regain the Shebaa Farms, for instance, and both the Lebanese and the Syrian bargaining positions would be strengthened if the two countries were acting in unison. Several Hizbullah leaders have stated that although they have little confidence in the likelihood that diplomacy can end the occupation of Lebanese soil, the party is willing to let others try to accomplish the task.

The unspoken corollary, of course, is that the resistance will remain in reserve as a proverbial stick to prod the Israelis if they refuse to take the carrots tacitly offered to them by the Lebanese government. There are those who are so blinded by hate that they cannot see the opportunities at hand and would still like to see Hizbullah and its supporters exterminated by the Israelis, but larger minds know better. These will recall that during the 1990s, when the Israelis still held their occupation zone in South Lebanon, the partnership between the state and the resistance was greater than the sum of its parts. Nonetheless, because the scope and the nature of the struggle have been profoundly altered – again, thanks to Hizbullah, and at a terrible cost to Lebanese civilians and their economy – the emphasis of the partnership must change too.

For the Israelis Wednesday had to have been a humiliating experience. They slaughtered more than 1,200 Lebanese, the vast majority of them civilians, after Hizbullah ambushed a patrol and carried off two Israeli troops on July 12, 2006. They dishonored themselves, betrayed their faith, and violated the norms of civilized warfare by venting their frustration on innocent women and children. They added insult to injury by littering the South with millions of cluster munitions that continue to kill and maim. In the end, however, they did precisely what Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said they would. Hopefully, when the humiliation wears off, they will have learned a valuable lesson

Ref: Daily Star

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