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July 25, 2006

On Disastrous Miscalculations

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

Here's a great perspective on the Lebanon crisis from Alon Ben-Meir in Friday's Muslim World Today:

[...] As the violence in the Middle East escalates, it is hard not to conclude that every player involved directly or indirectly has badly miscalculated. This conflict will not end by a restoration of the status quo ante. Israel will refuse to allow a replay of the last two weeks.

This means that there must be a dramatic change in both Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that satisfies Israel's security concerns and sends the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table in a permanently calm atmosphere.

By openly supporting the abduction and killing of an Israeli soldier and thereby siding with Hamas's military wing, perhaps against his own wishes, Prime Minister Haniya has betrayed not only his own instincts but the Palestinian people who supported him. Recent events have revealed how weak he is and how little he is able to defuse the conflict.

While squandering many opportunities to show some moderation, it is impossible to believe he imagined he could challenge Israel and emerge unscathed. This miscalculation has been one of too many that sooner or later, hopefully without too much bloodshed, will lead to a dramatic change in Palestinian internal politics.

Hezbollah has fared even worse than the Palestinians by badly miscalculating the Israeli reaction and counting on both the tacit and open support of Iran and Syria as well as the support of the Arab masses and governments to save the day. Knowing Israel's sensitivity to international pressure, Hezbollah's leader Sheik Nasrallah must have assumed that the Israeli retaliation would be proportionate, as the European Community shamefully has in fact demanded.

But why would Israel allow a terrorist organization to regroup and rearm in a month or two so it can rain down more destruction on Israeli towns? Seduced by his own rhetoric about how powerful and mighty Hezbollah is and eager to show solidarity with Hamas, Nasrallah overplayed his hand and now he is likely to pay a crippling price for his grandiosity.

Hezbollah certainly would not have attacked Israel without the acquiescence, if not the outright support, of Iran and Syria. Each of these countries had its own agenda. Syria wants to demonstrate that it is a regional player and it cannot be marginalized, while for Iran it was just another way to thwart U.S. and EU pressure to stop its nuclear program while forcing Israel to fight on two fronts.

... Israel too has its share of miscalculations. It ignored how important it was to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Palestinians and enable them to emotionally and intellectually separate themselves from radical Islamists.

... Rather than adopting a strategy that while inflicting crippling punishment on the radicals rewarded ordinary Palestinians, Israel generally resorted to tit-for-tat and collective punishment that tightened the alliance between ordinary Palestinians and the radicals.

Continue reading here...

Having read the entire piece, It appears that Condoleezza Rice's proposals would address most of Alon Ben-Meir's points.

Posted by Richard at July 25, 2006 12:38 PM

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