Middle East Roundtable /
An Israeli View:
Lessons from the war in Lebanon
by Ephraim Sneh
What are the likely ramifications of the war in Lebanon for the
A Palestinian looking thoughtfully at the war should draw the following
- The really substantive and existential regional conflict is between
Iran and Israel.
- Israel is the strongest military actor in the Middle East. Even if it
wasn't well prepared for this war, and even when it acted hesitantly,
Israel inflicted huge damage and destruction on Hizballah that attacked
it and on the Lebanese state that shelters that organization. In other
words, whoever hosts the proxies of Iran is liable to suffer
- With 4,000 rockets hitting Israeli territory, Hizballah leader Hassan
Nasrallah did not succeed in undermining the steadfastness of Israeli
society. Nor did more than 1,000 dead Israelis in the second intifada
break Israel. Evidently, Israelis are not crusaders who come and go, but
people attached to their land like us.
- If these conclusions are correct, there is no way I can realize the
vision of an independent Palestinian state through confrontation with
Israel and partnership with Iran and Syria. From an economic standpoint,
too, the only way I can escape from an $800 per capita GDP is by linking
up with the Israeli economy with its $20,000 per capita GDP. Economic
links with my Arab neighbors will not upgrade the Palestinian economy.
And without a growing economy, the Palestinian state will never stand on
its own two feet.
An Israeli looking perceptively at the war should also draw some
- My real enemy is the regime in Iran and of course all those who serve
it. With most of the Palestinians my quarrel is over territory; with
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinezhad (and with Palestinian PM Ismail
Haniyeh) I'm debating my very right to live here. My right to live here
in a Jewish state is not up for discussion. Territory can be an issue of
compromise--but not my right to live here.
- The conflict with the Palestinians is draining resources and energies
that I need for the other, existential conflict.
- The occupation hurts my international standing and weakens my position
in the international arena where I confront Ahmedinezhad and Nasrallah.
- The very absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
alienates the moderate actors in the Arab world who are my natural
allies and provides an excuse for my enemies to incite against me and
The Palestinian and the Israeli are my virtual creations. Yet both exist.
They take different points of departure: each wants a larger portion of the
same piece of land, and they are uncompromising in their conflicting
perceptions of history. But their interests coincide. Both would profit from
an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement and would lose from its
ongoing postponement. The broad outlines of such an agreement have been
fairly clear for several years, and are favored by about two thirds of the
public on both sides.
The lesson of the war in Lebanon is the need to begin negotiating a
permanent status agreement. It will take several years to implement it. But
both sides need to start talking now, to build their economies and societies
and confront the wave of fanaticism that threatens us all.-Published
21/8/2006 © bitterlemons.org
Dr. Ephraim Sneh is chairman of the Labor parliamentary faction in the
Knesset and a former government minister. A retired Israel Defense Forces
general, he is a former head of the Israeli administration in the West Bank
and was a long-time negotiator with the Palestinian Liberation Organization
on behalf of Prime Ministers Rabin and Peres.
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