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Israel, the US and key Arab regimes are now determined to crush widely popular Hizbullah
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Sunday Jul 16th, 2006 7:20 PM
The story reported in much of the western media in the past few days has painted a straightforward picture: Hizbullah's militants suddenly decided to launch an attack against Israel, killed some of its soldiers, kidnapped two, and has bombed Israeli cities. Israel, acting on its right to self-defence, retaliated by bombing the "infrastructure of terror" in Lebanon. The crisis will end when Israel's terms are implemented: the kidnapped soldiers are returned, Hizbullah is disarmed, and the Lebanese army protects Israel's northern border. This narrative borders on the dangerously naive.
Since Israel's 1996 massacre of Lebanese refugees at Qana in Lebanon, and the end of the 22-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, an agreement between the various parties - sponsored by France, the US, and the UN - has reflected the "balance of terror": Israel would refrain from bombing Lebanese civilian structures, and Hizbullah would not bomb civilian structures in northern Israel.

Although several military operations by the Israelis and by Hizbullah have occurred since 2000, neither side has violated this understanding. In 2004, Hizbullah secured the release of some prisoners held captive in Israeli jails in an exchange with Israel. And Hizbullah's military operation last week falls squarely within that framework.

Israel's immediate reaction broke the established rules of the game by bombing civilian structures across Lebanon, imposing a land, air and sea blockade, terrorising the population, and killing more than 100 civilians in a disproportionate display of power not seen since 1982. Hizbullah then retaliated by bombing northern Israel, in line with the "balance of terror" equations, and the escalation of the conflict has spiralled.

Israel's significant policy shift is linked to domestic politics, psychological factors and power plays. The wider geostrategic implications are more important then the operational details. For the first time in recent history, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli and US interests now converge in an implicit alliance to quell Hizbullah. Reactions by these states in the past few days have been strongly indicative of such a stance, from the Saudi statement implicitly condemning Hizbullah, to the US president's explicit refusal to "rein in" Israel.

US rhetoric last year about spreading "democracy and freedom" in the Middle East was ended when the administration realised that the outcome might lead to governments more in tune with national interests than American ones. The complacent reaction by US (and, to some extent, European) officials to the widespread election fraud and repression in Egypt as well as the open war on the democratically elected Palestinian government reflect this change. The question is increasingly whether entire populations are being punished for making the "wrong" democratic choices.

by Uri Avnery (reposted)
Monday Jul 17th, 2006 7:35 PM
The real aim is to change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government.

That was the aim of Ariel Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon in1982 . It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it.

As in1982 , the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the US.

As then, there is no doubt that it is coordinated with a part of the Lebanese elite. That’s the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda.

On the eve of the 1982 invasion, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told Ariel Sharon that, before starting it, it was necessary to have a “clear provocation”, which would be accepted by the world. The provocation indeed took place — exactly at the appropriate time — when Abu Nidal’s terror gang tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London. This had no connection with Lebanon, and even less with the PLO (the enemy of Abu Nidal), but it served its purpose.

This time, the necessary provocation has been provided by the capture of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. Everyone knows that they cannot be freed except through an exchange of prisoners. But the huge military campaign that has been ready to go for months was sold to the Israeli and international public as a rescue operation.

The declared aim of the Lebanon operation is to push Hezbollah away from the border, so as to make it impossible for them to capture more soldiers and to launch rockets at Israeli towns. The invasion of the Gaza Strip is also officially aimed at getting Ashkelon and Sderot out of the range of the Qassams.

That resembles the 1982 “Operation Peace for Gallilee”. Then, the public and the Knesset were told that the aim of the war was to “push the Katyushas 40 km away from the border”. That was a deliberate lie. For 11 months before the war, not a single Katyusha rocket (nor a single shot) had been fired over the border. From the beginning, the aim of the operation was to reach Beirut and install a Quisling dictator. As I have recounted more than once, Sharon himself told me so nine months before the war, and I duly published it at the time, with his consent (but unattributed).