Beyond the Cusp

January 25, 2011

The Continuing Saga of Lebanon

When writing about Lebanon I get a nervous feeling that but for the grace of G-d, this could happen to Israel. Lebanon has had one of the roughest histories among all the nations. The disintegration of order and sanity began with the arrival of Yasser Arafat and the PLO after they were cast out of Jordan after the events now called Black September where Yasser Arafat used his followers to overthrow the government in Jordan. Soon after being exiled to Lebanon everything boiled over. Yasser Arafat again made an attempt to take over the government in Lebanon while using southern Lebanon as a launching point for a terror war against Israel. The violence in southern Lebanon led to the formation of militias fighting for their factions which spread to the rest of the country with particularly fierce violence in Beirut. This was followed by the intervention first by Syria followed soon by Israel. The civil war continued for fifteen years while the Israeli occupation continued until 2000 when Israel pulled out all forces unilaterally. The vacated area was immediately controlled by Hezballah who used the area much as Yasser Arafat and the PLO had done, attacking northern Israel. Syria was forced to leave Lebanon in 2005 leaving Hezballah to enforce Syrian interests.

Before commenting on the current crisis, perhaps some history with a comparison to Israeli history might help understand what went wrong, where it went wrong, and why it went wrong. As with Israel, the saga of Lebanon also stems from the end of World War I and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. France and Britain were given mandate lands with similar mandates. The British were tasked to form a homeland for the Jews while the French were to form a homeland for the Christians. The British took 75% of her Mandate lands making what is now Jordan as a country for the Palestinian Arabs, yes, there is already a Palestinian State and its name is Jordan. The French formed Syria from the majority of their Mandate for the Arab Muslims. The remainder of the French Mandate lands was formed as Lebanon for the Arab Christians while the British, through the United Nations, attempted to divide the remaining Mandate lands for a Jewish State and an additional Palestinian Arab State. Here is where the two stories diverge. Where the Arab nations refused to recognize the Jewish State and immediately made war to eradicate the Jews, the Arabs accepted Lebanon as a predominately Christian state. This resulted in the majority of Muslim Arabs fleeing Israel at the behest of the invading Arab nations in the supposition it would facilitate a rapid and complete victory annihilating the Jews while a large Muslim population remained residing in Lebanon.

This eventually led Lebanon having a mixed population where Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Druze, and Christians all did not have a clear majority and compromise and concessions became necessary. This led to the presence of Hezballah pushing a Muslim extremist ideology and Syrian claims of reconstituting their sovereignty over Lebanon claiming it historically belongs to Syria. This boiling cauldron is now building up pressures that once again threaten to explode into another endless civil war. This was pushed to this point due to the expectation that the United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, would call for indictments of leaders from Hezballah and Syria. Unable to force the son of the assassinated Rafik Hariri and current Prime Minister Saad Hariri to refute the findings of the UN tribunal before it was even made public, Hezballah has forced the formation of a new government by withdrawing their Ministers in the Parliament and are forcing a choice of full support for Hezballah and rejection of the UN findings or the threat of a renewed civil war. The findings have been submitted in a closed report and indictments kept from the public in the hope that by handling the enforcement quietly without harsh publicity will thus prevent any resorting to violence. Thus far, violence has not reached feared levels but with Hezballah resigning from the ruling coalition forcing the government to fail, much will depend on how the next government is formed. Should Hezballah succeed in making a majority coalition placing their preferred candidate for Prime Minister, such government would refuse to recognize the UN report and refuse to comply with the indictments when they are made known. Should any members outside the ruling coalition try to have the UN indictments enforced, they could expect opposition possibly leading to arrest for treason or assassination. Should those opposing Hezballah retain power, then immediate civil unrest is very likely preventing the rule of law being applied. Either way, Lebanon no longer has the luxury of concessions or compromise, which has been their saving grace in the past. Only one side is going to survive the coming confrontation, and it is likely to be the one most able to enforce their view and their rule by any means necessary. The clock is ticking and violence seems inevitable unless there is an intervention or a miracle, or it might take both.

Beyond the Cusp

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