Analysis: The Lebanonization of Israel : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Analysis: The Lebanonization of Israel UPI, Thu 23 Nov 2000

The talk of the evening at a Washington diplomatic reception Wednesday night did not revolve around the U.S. presidential election saga, but was more focused on the recent upsurge of violence in the Middle East. Diplomats, observers and journalists who have long covered the area, for once seemed to reach a unanimous conclusion: that fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians would continue for the foreseeable future. Many observers felt that this was the "long haul." Having failed to achieve much of their demands at the negotiating table, the Palestinians seemed to have set their sights on grabbing those by force. The first objective, many believe, is to force Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip. When Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made his first dramatic appearance in front of the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, he called on the world community to decide between "an olive branch or a freedom fighter's gun." At the end of his 100-minute speech, Arafat declared: "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." The violence tearing the Holy Land apart during those last two months have clearly withered the olive branch. "We have stopped calling it the 'peace process,' " said a German diplomat who specializes in Middle Eastern affairs. "We now simply call it the 'process," he added laconically. Like most other observers at the affair, he too seemed at a loss as to what direction the recent spate of killings and counter killings would take and where it would all end. One school of thought fears that the "Intifada II," as this round of fighting has come to be know, is taking on a life of itself, dangerously veering out of control and heading into an unknown and very dangerous abyss. Part of the problem stems from the fact that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat appears to have lost control of the street. Just a few days ago, Arafat called for restraint from his fellow Palestinians. His appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears as clashes escalated to new heights, now targeting Israeli civilians outside of the Palestinian Authority area. "Arafat has completely lost control of the situation, just as he did in Beirut," said an American reporter who had recently returned from an extended tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories. "He controls neither the events, nor the people. This is a remake of Lebanon." "It is the Lebanonization of Israel," said a former U.S. State Department diplomat who is quite familiar with the Middle East, having served in numerous posts in the area. Indeed, when one analyses the flow of events currently unfolding in the Holy Land today, the similarities with the PLO's Lebanon debacle during the country's civil strife are many. When the civil war broke out in Lebanon in April 1975, the Palestine Liberation Organization and all of its splinter groups got drawn into the conflict as if pulled in by a magnet. Arafat tried hard to govern a large diversity of Lebanese and Palestinian "nationalist forces," that were complied of his own Fateh fighters and as well as thousands of other fighters belonging to scores of rival militias and political groups. Almost from the moment that the first clashes erupted on April 13th, 1975 and until Arafat and the PLO were expelled from Lebanon when the Israeli army invaded and set siege to the Lebanese capital in the summer of 1982, Arafat tried hard to master the situation. But he never really quite managed to. Whenever Arafat was unable to achieve something through peaceful negotiations, he would turn to the gun. Fighting would escalate and ceasefires would be broken. Look closely at Israel/Palestine today and much of the same scenario seems to be playing itself out again. "This is like a remake of Beirut," said one observer. Arafat still commands his Fateh guerrillas, but holds no such grasp over the Islamic militants of Hamas or Islamic Jihad. For that matter, Arafat cannot really control the pre-teen stone throwers who are simply nurtured on an ever-increasing cycle of hate. "You kill one fighter and two things transpire," said a former diplomat. "First you make him a martyr, and secondly you create two more fighters: his father and his brother." You hear much of the same rhetoric coming from the Palestinians, much the same retaliation enforced by the Israelis. And much of the same killing, maiming and continued build up of hatred by both sides. The peace process had come so very close just two months ago, but slipped away with the stillbirth of Camp David II. Instead, Intifada II was born. The Middle East has never been an easy place to understand. As was adequately said towards the end of that evening by Farid Abboud, the Lebanese Ambassador: "We live in a bad neighborhood." --

-- Martin Thompson (, November 24, 2000


"We live in a bad neighborhood." Indeed, and I think that this is going to extend into far more than the much talked about "regional crises." If Isra-el gets backed against the wall, blackmailed any further, or pushed much more in *any* direction, it's going to nuke those Arab Oil Fields, and plunge the whole world back into the stone age. JMHO of course. - Jesse.

-- Jesse (, November 24, 2000.

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