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Friday, November 09, 2007

Good news and bad news from Lebanon

There is good news and bad news from Lebanon this morning.

The good news is that Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told al-Arabiya last night that the time has come to take Lebanon out of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It sure has.
In the interview quoted by Israel Radio, Jumblatt said that Lebanon should rest after being in a state of war with Israel for thirty years.

Jumblatt called on his country's citizenry to join forces in order to return the Shebaa Farms to Lebanese sovereignty using peaceful means [especially since the dispute over them is between Lebanon and Syria - all Israel knows is that we liberated them from Syria. CiJ].

The contested farms are a small plot of land located on the convergence of three borders - those of Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Referring to Hizbullah, Jumblatt condemned the group vehemently, calling it "a division of the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards," adding that the organization's sole role is keeping the Syrian regime in place and protecting Iran's nuclear plan.
Of course, one has to hope that this time the story is real, but given that it's Israel Radio and it's based on an interview on al-Arabiya, I would be surprised if they ran the story without someone who understands Arabic hearing the interview first.

One must add that Jumblatt is in the opposition. The JPost has an interesting note about his background:
Jumblatt comes from an ancient Druse family that settled in Lebanon in the 16th Century. He is considered the worldwide Druse leader. His father, Kamal Jumblatt, a major political, cultural, and philosophical figure of the Middle-East, was assassinated in Lebanon in 1977 at the hand of Syrian agents.
Hopefully he knows how to take care of himself.

The bad news from Lebanon involves the possible shrinking of UNIFIL.
According to the officials, the political instability in Lebanon on the one hand, and the growing threats in southern Lebanon against the UN force by Hizbullah as well as al-Qaida elements on the other, could cause European countries to reconsider the extent of their participation in the peacekeeping force.


Germany, for example, is scheduled to concede command of the UNIFIL naval contingent in February. While Germany will continue to serve as a UNIFIL member, Israeli officials said they were concerned that the move was the first step in the country's plan to downsize its involvement.

Defense officials from a number of European countries confirmed that their governments were currently debating the issue and that it was possible that the UNIFIL force would not remain at its current strength in the years to come. Some officials went as far as to predict that if the political situation in Lebanon resolved itself and stabilized, there may "no longer be a need for UNIFIL at all."

The concern over the fate of UNIFIL was reportedly recently raised by the force commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, who was quoted as warning Lebanese leaders he met in Beirut last week that the tension in the south and a deepening political crisis in the country might prompt European countries "to withdraw from UNIFIL within less than four months."
That's not to say that UNIFIL has been busy fulfilling its mandate as is:
In addition to the concerns over the future of UNIFIL, the IDF has recently lodged informal complaints with several European countries over the fact that their forces are, according to Israel, involved more in protecting themselves from terror groups in southern Lebanon than in fulfilling their mission of preventing weapons smuggling and Hizbullah buildup.
Recall that in August, when the mandate came up for renewal, Israel wanted it expanded. It goes without saying that didn't happen! That the Europeans are more involved in protecting themselves than anything else is not surprising. Recall that they don't patrol at night either.

Israel should have learned by now that we cannot rely on the UN to protect us. Complaints by the IDF are a formality. Unless the government is willing to send the IDF back in, the Hezbullah arms build up will continue and all the IDF can do is keep up the overflights (despite UN protests) so that it knows where everything is hidden.

As to Jumblatt, I wish he were in charge in Lebanon, but he's not. And even the 'moderate,' 'western-backed' government of Fouad Siniora has no interest in peace with Israel. Too bad. There really is nothing behind the 'dispute' between Israel and Lebanon. We have no designs on any of their land and a real peace treaty between the two most westernized countries in the region could easily be attained. But don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.


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