Israel should pack up and go


Ha'aretz, Israel

(20 August 2006) - WHAT is the logic that will emerge from this war? If Israel can exist only by destroying the neighborhood, then it's time to declare it a failed state. The Zionist dream has turned into a nightmare and is not viable. If the future holds more of the same, then the time has come to reconsider the whole project. Every state has a duty to defend its citizens, but also it has a duty to provide them with security and the two are different. The prospects are for more destruction, fanaticism, violence and hatred. No unilateral separation can isolate Israel from this, nor can the region or the world live with the consequences. This seems to be the only choice, and Israel must do itself and others a favor and go away.

The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza shows a country deprived of all humanity. The West Bank is unlivable, the population strangled into three prison clusters. Concrete barriers, barbed wires, bypass roads, human beings emerging like rats from underground tunnels, daily humiliation from hundreds of checkpoints. Gaza has been under siege since the population dared to elect Hamas, its infrastructure has been obliterated and its population has been driven to despair in what now seems like a dress rehearsal for what was to come in Lebanon.

Lebanon woke up on July 12 to a reality that can destroy the very fabric of society. Divided between those who believe in a "riviera" with consensus politics, power sharing and a weak state, and those who, like Hezbollah, see the necessity of having a fortress to resist an evil and dangerous enemy. Israel's behavior will see the logic of the latter prevail.

Yet the Lebanese system is resilient. PM Fouad Siniora, under the bombs, was able to extract a consensus for a seven-point plan where the victorious fortress accepted to go back to the political process to resolve the crisis. Lebanon still managed to challenge the U.S. and Israel through sheer persistence, and in a diplomatic tour de force it was successful in steering the UN Security Council toward a political rather than military solution. For the first time, Arab foreign ministers have been mobilized and actively lobbied international legality.

There is deliberate targeting of civilians: Israel can deny it, but at the very least, those Israelis who are doing it know it is true. Over 17,000 people were killed in the invasion of 1982, and the net result was the creation of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. There is a doctrine that says Arabs need to be crushed, that they can be bombed into submission, that they will eventually fall on their knees. It is the doctrine, not its application, that is flawed. It says that by terrorizing the population, they will respect us and make peace; it says that those who dare resist need to be eradicated through targeted assassination and their supporters annihilated no matter what the cost. The only lessons Israel learned is that it should do it better next time.

Three Arab countries have peace treaties or diplomatic relations with Israel, most of the Gulf states have or had commercial bureaus, Saudi Arabia came up with the King Abdallah plan offering Israel normalization - something that was not achieved in nearly 30 years of peace with Egypt. Tunisia and Morocco have excellent relations with Israel. Even rogues like Syria and Libya give out positive vibes - the former desperate to resume peace talks unconditionally. The region has a history of tolerance and coexistence; minorities, including Jews, have survived and prospered for centuries. Israel is blind to any positive developments, and this will soon make these positions and those who hold them disappear, their stance untenable.

Lebanon can reconstruct airports, roads, bridges, and factories; bury and mourn the dead, rebuild shattered lives. Israel has barely been there for 60 years, a millisecond in history, but enough time to judge the results. If the fundamental moral logic is flawed, then it is time to give up, pack up and go.

*The writer, a Lebanese economist, is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Program at Chatham House.
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