Friday, July 28, 2006

A Way Out?

The hardest thing about war, it seems, is not fighting it; the hardest thing is the exit strategy. That's what bedeviled the US in Vietnam and is stumping it in Iraq, what caused so much trouble for Israel in its 1982 foray into Lebanon and is doing so again now. The problem seems intractable, a gordian knot incapable of being cut. The problems?

First, from the Israeli perspective, it cannot accept a return to the status quo ante, with Hezbollah again hunkering down armed and unopposed on the Lebanese side of the border, continuing its quest to destroy Israel and ready, willing and able to provoke another conflagaration any time it chooses.

Israel would accept a robust international force charged with a mandate of preventing Hezbollah attacks against Israel and disarming Hezbollah by force, if necessary, but the international community isn't exactly tripping over itself volunteering to supply the soldiers, arms and support such a force would require.

Hezbollah, of course, will not lay down its arms as doing so would be a massive humilliation and defeat, particularly without any Israeli concession on the Shabaa Farms/Har Dov area which Hezbollah uses as its pretext for attacking Israel.

And Israel, of course, cannot surrender on Har Dov for two reasons: first, its withdrawal in 2000 was certified by the UN and the UN's experts have determined that Har Dov was captured from Syria, not Lebanon. Thus, surrendering Har Dov to Lebanon despite the lack of a legal claim would be an invitation to invent still more disputed Lebanese territory as a pretext for Hezbollah's continued war against Israel. Second, and much more importantly, surrendering Har Dov in response to Hezbollah attacks would simply prove to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the rest of the "Destroy Israel" crowd in the Arab world that terrorism and violence works, it gets results, and could be successfully be used to achieve the ultimate goal of an Israel-free region.

All in all, it seems like a wholly insoluable mess. But lately I've been thinking that there may be a solution lurking in there after all. Let me lay out what I think the solution could look like, and then I'll explain it.

Step 1: Syria and Lebanon sign a treaty by which Syria irrevocably cedes all claims to the Shabaa Farms region to Lebanon.

Step 2: Israel and Lebanon sign a peace treaty with the following terms:

a) An immediate cease fire; and
b) Israel will turn control of the Shabaa Farms/Har Dov over to Lebanon exactly three years to the day after the treaty is signed, as long as the following conditions are met:
1) The captured soldiers are returned alive and unharmed;
2) Hezbollah agrees to disarm and disband, turning its arms over to the Lebanese army in a process certified by a UN team to include observers from the US, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, which must have been certified to have been completed by two years after the date the treaty is signed; and
3) There are no further attacks on Israel from Lebanon in the interim, whether by Hezbollah (or any other such entity), the Lebanese government, or even individual Lebanese citizens;
c) Should any of these conditions fail to be met, Lebanon will unconditionally and irrevocably cede the Shabaa Farms/Har Dov to Israel; and
d) Should there be any attack on Israel from Lebanese territory after the date that Israel turns over the Shabaa Farms/Har Dov, whether by Hezbollah (or any other such entity), the Lebanese government, or even individual Lebanese citizens, which if the attack had originated from the government of Lebanon would be a breach of the peace treaty, Lebanon will immediately and irrevocably cede control of the Shabaa Farms/Har Dov to Israel.

What does this accomplish? Well, first, step 1 removes the problem of invalidating the UN certification of the 2000 withdrawal, since if Syria officially and irrevocably cedes its claim to the area to Lebanon, then it becomes Lebanese territory as of the date of that act, and Israel can separately negotiate over the Shabaa Farms/Har Dov with Lebanon, rather than being forced to negotiate over it only in the framework of a broader agreement with Syria. Step 1 also ensures that if either of what I'll call the "forfeiture provisions" come into play, Israel's title to Har Dov becomes undisputed, instead of subject to possible dispute from Syria.

As to the treaty between Israel and Lebanon, which would formally end the state of war that has existed between the two since 1948, it:

1) allows Israel to accomplish the necessary goal of neutralizing the strategic threat posed by Hezbollah;
2) allows Hezbollah to claim a modicum of victory in achieving control of the Shabaa Farms;
3) satisfies Israel's need to not be seen as being forced to capitulate to terror, as the Shabaa Farms would become Lebanese territory only through peace, and not through war; and
4) provides an incentive to Lebanese extremists who would support further attacks on Israel regardless of the pretext of the Shabaa Farms to keep from doing so, as if they attacked Israel they would be directly harming the Lebanese national interest, while simultaneously both providing Lebanon and its non-extremist citizens with an incentive to be vigilant against extremists in their midst and gives Israel assurances that if it trades land for peace it will either get that peace or, if not, it will get to keep the land.

Personally, I think it's a pretty elegant solution, not only because it seems to satisfy the needs of the parties but because it quite effectively puts Nasrallah and Hezbollah on the spot; they can either accede to a deal that stands to greatly benefit Lebanon - the country whose interests they claim to serve - or they can veto it and reveal themselves to their Lebanese constituency as entirely uninterested in the good of Lebanon, which would hopefully drastically weaken their base of support among Lebanon's shiite community.

Comments, please!


At 1:37 AM, Blogger Jonathan Freitag said...


I agree with you that some specific things, such as Shabaa, need to be taken care of and that the 2000 withdrawal needs firming.

Taking care of things like Shabaa would serve to isolate Hezbollah by pulling from under its feet a pretext it uses to exact violence against Israel. Let's drink to that.

But, my question to you: why not do this on July 13?

In fact, why not do this in 1967? Was not Shabaa taken in 1967? Did not 242 say to give it back, back then? (I could be wrong, and if so, teach me.)

Akiva, immense international pressure - on July 13 - could have been applied by the massive Israeli and American noise machines. America is a country that in the snap of a finger can get 250 million people talking about flag burning. Surely THIS could have been burned in the public's eye too.

Gutsy - not gutless - diplomacy between Israel and Lebanon could have taken care of these issues years ago.

July 12 was a border skirmish, not a pretext for war. A general desire for talks are on the money, just to me 650 dead innocents (on BOTH sides) too late.

Or is this the plan after all in Israel? To make Lebanon a Jordan-like client? That is my take. The SF Chronicle reported this siege has been in the works.

More fundamentally, until people drop the idea that there exists an "existential threat" to Israel and that its "enemies" want to "drive it into the sea" and that "you can't negotiate with terrorists", who by the way "use human shields," and that "Israel has a right to defend itself" which we all know is cover for "Israel has the right to unbridled responses", peace is a long way off.

The self defense, the sea, and human shields trio. All talks about the issue with IDF (not true Israeli) supporters come to these three. They’re inherent in every discussion about Israel.

I hate being told by Republicans in America and by IDeffers that I just don’t get the threat. Iran says what it says. Others do to. But I find this appropriation of the legacy of our holocaust deeply problematic. Israel is not on the outs, and pulling at the Judeocide thread is precisely what the Trio of verbal defenses is meant to do. I think it’s shameful, and of course, physically dangerous to its neighbors.

To be clear, my position on this is that Hezbollah was wrong to apprehend soldiers, but Israel was wicked to apprehend a nation.

But to solve this and provide the REAL cover for everyone:

- Israel must pay for destroying Lebanon, Gaza, and parts of the West Bank; The U.S. and Syria should pay Israel for its loss of property -- let's start with the tab.
- Israel must withdraw from all illegally occupied territories immediately and international monitors must be brought in to ensure that Israel doesn't pull - as it did in Gaza - another faux withdrawal: no more sonic booms, no more arrests of democratically-elected Parliaments.
- Israeli settlements must be uprooted
- Peace treaties need to be signed between all parties, as Israel did with Egypt.
- The demilitarization of Hezbollah must accompany UN monitors in Lebanon.
- The Lebanese army must become an actuality. It ought to be supported by U.S. dollars in concert with Lebanon's recent strides toward democracy: in fact, backing Lebanon's military would stand as one of the only armies the U.S. supports that I would second -- not Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia, Turkey, or bin Laden in 1979.
- Disarming Hezbollah should be seen in concert with an American project to support parties of moderation in Lebanon - like the U.S. successfully did in the Ukraine elections – Hezbollah is an idea, a political party, and to reduce its influence in Lebanon we ought to bolster its moderate opposition.

None of the things I said above are going to happen:

- Israel may illegally occupy more territory after this.
- Settlements may actually spring up there.
- Peace treaties will be a thing of the Egyptian past.
- Hezbollah, in light of Israel's crimes on Lebanon, may gain strength as history shows it did in mid 80s – this is all to predictable and Israel knows it: it made Hamas by squeezing Fatah.
- Lebanon's government may either topple or Hezbollah will gain seats.

I really, really like that somebody else is out there being gutsy and creative and striving hard use diplomacy. But we are alone in the blathersphere. Not John Bolton, nor Olmert, nor Rice, nor Bush, nor any neocon Israeli or American, nor the Democratic party gives a whack about diplomacy; they deride Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy as being effete, French, soft. Bring back George H.W. Bush and Clinton, I guess. Tsunami II.

These problems are not Biblical, nor intractable.

I think, though, a general recognition that Israel - for all the horrific bluster it takes in by Iran and others about wanting to destroy it - is a global titan armed to the teeth, with nuclear bombs, and a veritable conveyor belt in Washington DC, has to be a starting point.

Make no mistake: Hezbollah was wrong here. But Israel was wicked.

Jews, I tell my Jewish mother (that makes me Jewish, though not a proud one at this point in time), of ALL people, who have gone through pogroms, genocide, Kristallnacht, Diaspora, and anti-Semitism should sympathize with others' desire for self rule.

As long as “driving us into the sea” is on the tips of our tongues, a trigger will always be on the tips of our fingers.

Do we like it that way?

I truly am on your side. Be in touch. Where you think I’m wrong, teach me. I'm new here.

The end of Lebanon didn't have to happen. It was a border skirmish.

Peace -- Jon

At 2:38 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...


I finally took the time to read your entire blog (along with the comments) before attempting to respond (you’re welcome). And I am glad I started reading it the way it is posted, from the top down, i.e. reverse chronologically, because had I begun with the post starting with “Anyone who knows me . . . knows I'm about as staunch a defender of Israel as they come”, you would have lost me right then and there with that self-proclaimed bias. But I think it is a good thing that I started with what seems to me a more tempered, reasonable Akiva; I’d like to think a large part of it is due to your contact with Lebanese bloggers such as Ramzi and Bob (I wouldn’t count myself here just because I don’t see myself as a political blogger; my blog is mostly a poetry blog that naturally got politicized given the circumstances).

So, the same way that you won over my attention by your moderateness, I will attempt to win yours by starting with commending you on the ambition of your undertaking (a solution to ending the war) and the fact that you were undaunted by the hugeness of the matter or the apparent futility of the effort (that is not to diminish from its importance as an exercise for those involved). Also, I would like to applaud what you yourself unabashedly called the “elegance” of your solution. Having said that, allow me to hurry to pointing out your biases—not out of malice, but simply out of belief in the importance of that to clarifying the debate (and I am sure you will not hold yourself from pointing out mine, and maybe that will be enlightening to me).

Your self-declared bias towards Israel—which I presume is based on your religion, judging from your name—is unfortunately muddying your otherwise thorough thought process (a byproduct of, or rather an asset, given your profession, I should imagine). The places where that bias is rearing its (allow me to say) ugly head are in your all-too-facile acceptance of Israel’s terms of the argument (read spin), such as in the whole “self-defense” line and the “terroristic” nature of Hezbollah (I prefer the use of the more true-to-Standard Arabic, Hizbullah, but my computer keeps on red-lining it—yes, I am writing in MS Word—so, I’ll just take its suggested spelling).

Before I elaborate on these two points, and how that bias is showing up as a deficiency in your solution, allow me to reveal some of my biases. I was born into a Shiite family in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the ones that have been bombed into a pulp recently. But before you jump into conclusions, I am no supporter of Hezbollah. Even though I was raised in that area, I grew up in a family that is, comparatively, pretty liberal minded, and my education was in US-based institutions in Lebanon, from elementary school all the way to college. As it happens, I also identify as agnostic and gay, premises which put me ideologically diametrically opposed to Hezbollah. So, their growing presence and influence in my old neighborhood (I have since moved to the US where I went to grad school and have been living and working for the past 8 years, so I still am at loss where “my” neighborhood is)—Hezbollah’s growing presence and influence in the neighborhood where my family lives is a grave cause of concern for me on a personal level as well. Needless to say, I am very disturbed by the rise of any religious fundamentalism due to its opposition to my humanitarian secular values (remember, the personal is inevitably political, and the political is invariably personal). So, I am the first to want to see Hezbollah disarmed, and would love to see its popularity reduced, beginning with the members of my own family. That is not to say, however, that I simply accept the claim that Hezbollah is terroristic, not when by the same breath Israel is excused of its terrorism.

I have read your argument that terrorism cannot be applied to states, and I don’t buy it. It is simply technical, and in your line of work that may matter; but for me the definition of terrorism is based on the word’s origin of “inflicting terror”, regardless of who is doing it. You say Hezbollah is targeting innocent civilians; I tell you Israel has killed WAY more innocent civilians. Israel has simply inflicted (and is still inflicting) more terror than Hezbollah.

The second point of fallacy is “self-defense”. That has been very effective spin because, as Jon has pointed out, of its reliance on the horrific recent history of Jewish people. But, as I told Jon in an e-mail, and allow me to resort to a simplistic parallel, self-defense is when someone tries to kill you and you kill them first. But if your neighbor hates you, and says he wants to kill you or drive you out of the neighborhood, and then he abducts your golden retriever, and then you decide to go over, kill him, rape his wife, and then set off his house on fire with his children locked inside, that is not self-defense. You, as a lawyer, should know that. Your neighbor might be a psychotic bully, but that does not give you the right to do all of the above. And that is what Israel has done, and it’s not self-defense.

So, how does that relate to your proposed elegant solution? Well, your bias is showing in the terms you have set, in assuming that Hezbollah only, or a Lebanese entity, might violate the conditions. You haven’t even contemplated the possibility that Israel, which has been acting more as a rogue state than you or the “enlightened” West would admit, could be the instigator. And that is a very important point, treating both sides with equal trust and respect.

Along those same lines is the vital amendment that Jon proposed of settling the tab first. I think it is imperative that Israel pays, financially, for its collective punishment (and yes, don’t even try to dispute that one, Akiva—if destroying the infrastructure of a country isn’t collective punishment, I don’t know what is!). Minus the damage inflicted by Hezbollah in Israel, sure.

Where I find Jon’s proposal vulnerable is in tying the Lebanese problem to the Palestinian one. Even though the two problems are intrinsically related, one of the elegant fulcrums of your proposal is dissociating the Lebanese problem from the Syrian one, i.e. making peace one piece at a time (sorry, couldn’t help the wordplay!). Attaching the Palestinian problem to it from the other side would be setting it up for failure. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Israel has been vastly unjust toward the Palestinian people, and that is no small matter. But I do believe in achieving peace one piece at a time. Of course, the Palestinian issue is one of the implicit justifications of Hezbollah’s existence, and one of its rallying cries. But it is not its proclaimed raison d’etre in Lebanon; the Shebaa Farms are (hence, the elegance of your solution).

Another thing that I’d like to add to Jon’s amendments of supporting the Lebanese Army and the moderate base in the country, or in fact a way to help achieving the latter—and this may be more of an internal agenda—is supporting secularism in the country as a means of reducing religious/sectarian radicalism, and eventually diffuse the popular base of Hezbollah. Before anyone jumps down my throat (especially Lebanese bloggers), no, I am not advocating an overhaul of the electoral system where all of a sudden becomes sect-blind. That would cause, very quickly, a Shiite—read currently Hezbollah—rule of the country (even though the Sunnis currently have the voting majority, given the demographics, that will be turned within a few years). What I am proposing is diffusing thinking along such lines to begin with, reducing sectarianism as a tribal emotional force. And one simple but crucial step towards that is civil marriage. I am not kidding. Lebanese people of different religions currently cannot get married in Lebanon; they often resort to our dear secular neighbor Cyprus. And this point is no small matter; nothing changes feelings like family relations (for the better or worse!) And as a gay guy, I have no hidden agenda in this (mine comes later, after Hezbollah is demilitarized and reduced in popularity, and the country is secular and stuff…).

One thing, that cannot be discounted, and that I’d like to end on here, is the counter-productiveness of Israel’s current actions. What seems to always be discounted from such political debates is the human aspect of them: despair. I maintain that there is no one more dangerous that someone with nothing to lose. Drive someone to the edge, and they’ll have no hesitation about dragging you down with them. And Israel’s injustice and cruelty, aside from its being just so morally wrong, has created a lot of suffering and despair. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to put an end to your own life; it takes a lot of despair. Israel shouldn’t be handing suicide bombers their most valuable ammunition and then wondering, why do they hate us?

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Akiva M said...

Ash, Jon,

Thanks for the comments. Despite the fact that it's sunday, I have a trial coming up, which means I'm going to be headed into the office and can't really respond in the detail your comments deserve right now. But I do want to explain one thing, which I think is the linchpin to any peace in the region:

Land for peace isn't.

What do I mean by that? I mean that "land for peace" as a practical matter, is actually "land for the promise of peace"; Israel gives up land immediately and irrevocably, and must trust that there will be peace in return. The severe problem with that, from an Israeli perspective, is that there's no real basis for that sort of trust - not with groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah openly proclaiming that their goals are not territorial but existential, that they will continue their war on Israel no matter what territorial concessions it makes.

In other words, if Hamas, IJ and Hezbollah keep to their word (and there's no reason at all to believe that they won't) Israel will not have traded "land for peace" but "land for slightly less war".

So what I have come to realize is that any peace deal needs to address this problem, and to do so by ensuring that if Israel does not receive peace, then it at least gets to keep the land. That way, the deal truly becomes "land for peace" and not "land for nothing" or "land for slightly less war."

Which is why the deal has that lopsided quality you are talking about. Think about it. Say that after the deal is signed and Hezbollah is disarmed Israel continues its breaches of Lebanese airspace.** Well, two things happen then. One, Israel gets hauled up in front of the Security Council and this time without US backing since there would be no rational reason to engage in such a breach. Two, whatever happens between Israel and Lebanon, or even if there's a security council veto, Lebanon is still in possession of the Shabaa Farms.

In other words, while it may be important to create a mechanism for adjudicating disputes between Israel and Lebanon post-agreement (say binding arbitration with a panel composed of an arbitrator selected by the Israelis, an arbitrator selected by the Lebanese, and a third arbitrator jointly selected by the other arbitrators), there isn't the same need for a "you didn't get what you paid for so here's your money back" type of hard sanction against Israel as there is in favor of Israel.

Like I said, I'm off to work, so more later. But let me know your response to that.

** (breaches I think were justified in the past, given the existence of Hezbollah on the border and the fact that it fired 2500 missiles into Israel even between 2000 and this war; Israel had a real need to do reconnaissance overflights of the area to get information about where Hezbollah was located)

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Akiva M said...


1) "Why not do this on July 13?"

For the very simple reason that Israel cannot - not would prefer not to, but cannot - give in to terrorist blackmail. You may have caught from my post that I'm very concerned with incentives - not just how to stop this particular conflict but how to do so in a way that makes future conflict less rather than more likely. Responding to illegal terror attacks or cross border incursions by saying "here, take what you want, just don't hurt us" only increases the likelihood of future attacks. It would also dramatically enhance the standing of Hezbollah for again forcing Israel into concessions. In other words, it would provide the impetus for further war, not a lasting peace.

2)"In fact, why not do this in 1967? Was not Shabaa taken in 1967? Did not 242 say to give it back, back then? (I could be wrong, and if so, teach me.)"

You are wrong, dramatically, drastically wrong, and you really should educate yourself a bit on this subject, because it's important to know at least some of the history to discuss it intelligently.

First, 242 calls for Israel to return "territories" (pointedly and deliberately not "the territories" - several attempts to amend the draft resolution to read "the territories" were rejected on the grounds that the exact contours of returned lands should be determined by the parties' negotiations) in exchange for peace. There are two key points here: 1) 242 does not demand that Israel return all territory captured in 1967, only some territory; and 2) more importantly, Israel's obligation to do so is only in the context of a negotiated peace. Unlike, say, Saddam's capture of Kuwait - which was in a war of aggression, and therefore had to be returned unconditionally - the international community recognized that Israel's war in 1967 was legal, that it was in response to "causus belli" (a legal act of war) and therefore it could hold captured territory until it returned them in the context of peace. There having been no peace with Syria (more on that later), there is no obligation on Israel to return territories to Syria.

Second, Israel actually did attempt to return *all* of the territory it occupied in 1967. Immediately after the war, Israel offered to return all captured territory to Egypt and Syria in exchange for peace. The Arab response was the Khartoum Resolution and the famous "three nos" - No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel and No negotiations with Israel.

Third, why do I keep mentioning Syria? Because according to UN cartographers who exhaustively studied the issue, the Shabaa Farms area was captured from Syria, not Lebanon, and Israel's obligation to return it is triggered only by a peace deal with Syria. Given Bashar Assad in Syria, I don't think many people around the world are holding their breath waiting for that to be consummated.

So, in short: no Israel should not have given it back in 1967.

3) "Or is this the plan after all in Israel? To make Lebanon a Jordan-like client? That is my take. The SF Chronicle reported this siege has been in the works."

Huh? a "Jordan-like client"? Jordan isn't an Israeli "client-state" by any meaning of the word - merely a neighbor with whom Israel has a stable and productive peace - the kind I believe can exist between Israel and Lebanon.

As for the "siege being in the works" - of course it has. Conspiracy theorists read that Israel had long planned how it would respond to this type of attack and say "ha, see? they were just waiting for a pretext to invade!" Rational people, on the other hand, see that for Israel *not* to have planned a response would be criminally negligent; Hezbollah has been a threat for far too long for Israel to ignore it and not plan for the obvious eventuality of an attack.

4) "More fundamentally, until people drop the idea that there exists an "existential threat" to Israel and that its "enemies" want to "drive it into the sea" and that "you can't negotiate with terrorists", who by the way "use human shields," and that "Israel has a right to defend itself" which we all know is cover for "Israel has the right to unbridled responses", peace is a long way off."

A few questions for you:

Topic 1: Existential threats:

a) True or false - Hezbollah has repeatedly stated that its goal is the destruction of Israel?

b) True or false - Hamas has repeatedly stated that its goal is the destruction of Israel?

c) True or false: Islamic Jihad has repeatedly stated that its goal is the destruction of Israel?

d) True or false - Iran has repeatedly stated that Israel should be destroyed?

e) True or false - Iran finances and arms Hezbollah?

f) True or false - Iran finances and arms Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

g) True or false - the weapons Iran has supplied Hezbollah are increasingly sophisticated, including Fajr-3 missiles (recently launched at Afula), C802 missiles (which hit the Israeli destroyer off the coast of Lebanon) and Zelzal-2 missiles (of which Israel has destroyed one on the launcher)?

The answer to all of the above, of course, is "True".

Given that, how can you deny that these groups are actually an existential threat that must be treated as such? You brush the assertion aside as posturing or paranoia - but where are the facts to back up that position?

Human shields:

True or false - Hezbollah (and Hamas and Islamic Jihad) operate from within civillian populations, fire weapons from civillian locations, and generally do not fight in segregated groups which can be attacked by Israel without endangering civillians?

Again, the answer is true, an answer recently attested to by Jan Egelund, who is about as far from an "IDF supporter" as it is possible to be.

So again, on what basis do you simply waive away this point as unfounded?

The rest of your points rest on the fallacies above, so I'll await your response.

At 11:08 PM, Blogger Akiva M said...


On the lebanese bloggers - it certainly was wonderful to find voices like Ramzi and Ramz and you as well (whether we agree on everything or not). But this is an idea that I've had for a long time, particularly about the Palestinian issue though it really covers any land-for-peace situation.

In the same spirit of your comments, I just want to suggest to you that you should not write off supporters of Israel simply for being supporters of Israel. Recognize that the Israeli narrative of Israel's existence is very different than the Arab narrative of Israel's existence, and that the truth of history is both somewhere between the two and ultimately irrelevent to finding a way forward.

>>I have read your argument that terrorism cannot be applied to states, and I don’t buy it. It is simply technical, and in your line of work that may matter; but for me the definition of terrorism is based on the word’s origin of “inflicting terror”, regardless of who is doing it. You say Hezbollah is targeting innocent civilians; I tell you Israel has killed WAY more innocent civilians. Israel has simply inflicted (and is still inflicting) more terror than Hezbollah.>>

I don't think that it's just a matter of semantics. There is a well defined body of law that governs the conduct of states at war, and those laws should be applied. A state that violates those laws is committing war crimes.

There is no such body of law defining terrorism, mainly because arab nations in the UN have refused to allow a definition of terrorism that does not contain an exception for "national resistance" (in other words, they will not agree to a body of law that makes blowing up Israeli civillians illegal) so discussion of terrorism, in a legal sense, is almost impossible. But defining it as "anything that causes terror or kills civillians" ignores the vast body of law that already covers the actions of states. I've studied this extensively (including a course on peacekeeping with a former undersecretary general of the UN) so I've got some fairly nuanced and well developed views on this. So, non-state actors (since states are covered by war crimes laws and have no need for a new body of law) who either target civillians, fight from within civillian populations (as opposed to fighting away from civillian populations and then blending back into them, which is a classic guerilla tactic, and legal) or abuse protected classes for military purposes (such as transporting arms in ambulances, which harms legitimate medical transport). A qualitative approach is better, I think, than a "results oriented" one.

The recent attack on Qana is an example of why. And before I say anything else, it's a human tragedy of epic proportions that cannot be minimized and the loss of life should be mourned by any thinking or feeling human being. You've read my earlier posts, so you know that I think that a number of Israeli strikes were illegal. But a reckless strike on a bridge that killed a single person bothers me more from a legal/moral standpoint than Qana, for the simple reason that while an Israeli pilot may have fired the missile that hit the building, it was Hezbollah that killed the people inside by using the building as a launch platform.

Think about it - was there any way that the pilot could have known there were civillians in the building from thousands of feet in the air? Of course not. Contrast that with the Hezbollah operatives who chose the building as a launch platform. Is there any way they could not have known? Of course they knew - they were right there, on the ground. And they also knew that by firing from that building, they painted a bulls eye on it for the IAF. The Israeli pilot fired the missile, but Hezbollah killed those people. And it was not, in any way, a war crime - regardless of how many died in the attack.

>>self-defense is when someone tries to kill you and you kill them first. But if your neighbor hates you, and says he wants to kill you or drive you out of the neighborhood, and then he abducts your golden retriever . . .>>

Here's where this analogy spins off track. Hezbollah didn't kidnap the equivalent of a golden retriever. Hezbollah was the equivalent of that neighbor kidnapping my children. And if he kidnaps my children (and the police refuse to respond) and the only way to get my children back is to put his children in danger, then that is what I have to do. Because as much as I would hate putting his children - innocents - in danger, as a parent my first responsibility is to protect my own children. In the same way, Israel's first responsibility is to protect its own civillians - civillians who have suffered under rocket barrages from Hezbollah for the last six years. This was not a negligible incident, nor was it the only one. And particularly since Hezbollah has been - like the neighbor in your analogy - saying it was going to kill or remove Israel, Israel had no real choice but to respond, especially as the police - for whatever reason - were not doing so.

BTW, this isn't a my-side/your-side thing for me. If it were an Israeli militia lobbing rockets across the syrian border without interference from the IDF, I'd say the same thing about Syria's right to self-defense.

But honestly, I don't want to get bogged down in this, because it's not helpful. I think you know me well enough by now to recognize that I am not inured to the suffering of the Lebanese civillians or particularly happy with the IDF right now; I honestly and legitimately view this through a prism different from yours, and that affects our different responses.

If I seem a bit cold about this it's not because it isn't affecting me (I haven't really slept in a week and a half because of this war, though I'm safe in NY; the death and destruction bothers me too much, even from a distance). It's because what separates people from animals is our intellect and a coldly rational view is the only way out, IMO. And because of that, I'm thinking not only of the victims of this war but of the next, and the next. If we allow groups like Hezbollah to act with impunity because of fear of harming innocents, then we will end up with more innocent death than less, in the long term - because such groups will learn the lesson and proliferate unstopably, spawning unending conflict accross the globe.

>>>Well, your bias is showing in the terms you have set, in assuming that Hezbollah only, or a Lebanese entity, might violate the conditions. You haven’t even contemplated the possibility that Israel, which has been acting more as a rogue state than you or the “enlightened” West would admit, could be the instigator. And that is a very important point, treating both sides with equal trust and respect.>>>

I addressed this above, I think, but let me repeat it. The issue isn't whether both sides can violate the deal; obviously, both can. And you're right that there needs to be a mechanism for dealing with those breaches (I like my arbitration panel solution). But a return to violence from Lebanon would mean that Israel paid for something it did not receive, and should therefore get its money (the land) back. A future breach from Israel - or a breach by Lebanon unrelated to violence, say a breach of some land use agreement - wouldn't need to be treated in the same way, and could be resolved by a normal mechanism such as arbitration.

On the issue of reparations, I think it's a bad idea, but only in name. What should be part of the deal is not reparations, but an Israeli Marshall plan; a determination to help an erstwhile enemy rebuild so that it can emerge as a prosperous and stable society. Israel should help finance Lebanon's reconstruction not out of guilt but out of self-interest.

I absolutely agree with you on the Lebanese army and the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics, but that will take a generational sea change, as far as I can tell.

On the Palestinians, I agree that it's a mistake to tie the two together (one peace at a time - I like that!). But I also think that the same system can work with them, in a way (like I said, they are the ones I originally thought this up for). And if it did work with Lebanon, it would provide a perfect framework for coming to terms with the Palestinians.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Jonathan Freitag said...

Dear Akiva,

I do not much respect the whole 242 “the” article controversy and also disagree with your view of Khartoum as it was perceived by the world in 67 and its somewhat minor role since then. Moreover, Israel's use of the 'self-defense, shields, and the sea' position is daily, and rightly, falling on more deaf ears. That said, should a conflict arise that fits this argument, I dearly hope the world’s sympathy for Israel isn’t by then already sapped.

Israel has turned a normal border skirmish into a humanitarian and environmental crisis. I am very much beyond ‘displeased’ with the IDF for laying waste to a beautiful and peaceful country and hope this assault does not lure more Lebanese moderates – or any moderates – into a politics of religious conservatism, as is so often the case.

Though I of course found your desire for a Marshall Plan for a nation that was already well in progress condescending and rooted in a kill-to-save colonial mentality, I admit I found it illuminating and likely well within Israel’s designs, though perhaps on someone else’s dime.

I believe we are on very different pages after all.

Best of luck with your work,

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Akiva M said...

"Though I of course found your desire for a Marshall Plan for a nation that was already well in progress condescending and rooted in a kill-to-save colonial mentality, I admit I found it illuminating and likely well within Israel’s designs, though perhaps on someone else’s dime."

Jon - wow.

The Marshall plan was the process by which the US picked up the tab for the reconstruction of its erstwhile enemies, despite screams from its own population that it had no obligation to do so, out of an understanding that the long term stability of the region and the world was better served with a healthy, prosperous germany/italy/japan than with those nations being left to recover on their own.

It has nothing to do with the state of progress in Lebanon prior to this war, which was high; Germany and Japan also were highly developed societies prior to the war. After the war, however, they were devastated economically and structurally, and were in no position to rebuild on their own. Sadly, Lebanon is likely to be in a similar position when this is over.

My point was that Israel - out of its own self interest in having a stable and prosperous neighbor - should likewise fund the reconstruction of Lebanon, regardless of whether it feels that it is "obligated" to do so.

There is nothing "colonial" or "kill to save" in that sentiment, and your reaction to the suggestion is far more illuminating of your own prejudices and biases than my own original post.

Meh - I'd appreciate it if future commenters could restrict their comments to tweaks to the proposal, rather than historical argument; we aren't going to convince each other and it doesn't add anything.

Ash, based on your comments I'd ammend the proposal to include a mechanism for dealing with other violations from either side. Does that make sense?

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Jonathan Freitag said...


(Final history post.)

If one really wanted to see a stable, prosperous, and progressive Lebanon, then one cannot possibly have supported this invasion from the beginning.

"IDF: A Marshall Plan for Lebanon!" -- it reads like a headline from The Onion.

Best regards,

At 8:40 PM, Blogger David said...


Excellent analysis of the situation, and a proposal with real promise. However, I have to take issue with one of your suggestions, the notion of a return of Sheba Farms should any attack against Israel occur from Lebanese soil.

My issue with this notion is simple; it places the onus for maintaining a peace agreement in the hands of the very people who would seek to undermine it. In essence, you invite any individual unhappy with the notion of an Israeli-Lebanese peace to destroy it by attacking Israel, at which time your proposal would call for Lebanon to cede Sheba back to Israel.

Instead, a more reasonable proposal would give Israeli intelligence (be it Mossad or Shin Bet) the power to investigate, arrest, and prosecute the perpetrators and supporters of any cross border attack, working in conjunction with the Lebanese government. This way, if it is found to be the work of a renegade group of individuals, they can be found and prosecuted without jeapordizing what will certainly be a delicate peace, while if it were the work of Hizbollah, it would give Israel the ability to arrest and prosecute the leaders of its military wing.

It may seem like a ridiculous proposal, but Israel has nothing to gain by holding on to Sheba, and even less to gain were it to reoccupy it in the event of any attack. Sustained attacks from Lebanese soil would certainly constitute an act of war, at which point Israel would naturally be expected to take whatever actions are necessary to stop them (self defense is an enshrined principle of international law), but by forcing Lebanon to cede Sheba in the event of a single attack, you simply empower the very madmen who want perpetual war with Israel.

Perhaps I've rambled a bit much, but other than this disagreement, I found your analysis to be largely on point, and your solution to be (seemingly) more than adequate.


At 10:39 AM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

How will "A Way Out" deal with the overwhelming desire for revenge by tens of thousands of Lebanese?

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Akiva M said...

Solomon - thanks for coming by. you can only attempt the possible, not the impossible. No deal between the parties can ever dictate the emotional state of individuals.

What it can do, however, is provide incentives to regulate action on those emotions. That's the whole point of the forfeiture provisions: Lebanese will have a national interest in not acting violently against Israel, as doing so will directly harm themselves.

Second, while the desire for vengence may run strong now, once the firing stops Israel can help cool those fires by engaging in a voluntary effort to aid and fund Lebanon's reconstruction. Make it clear that a devastated Lebanon was a tragic consequence of a war Israel had to fight, not a desired outcome, and be at the forefront of the drive to rebuild Lebanon.

Hopefully that, and other confidence building measures and gestures of friendship - both on a governmental and an individual level - will lessen the desire for vengeance. If not, what else could be done?

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Marvin the Martian said...

Akiva - I landed on your blogg by accident.

I have read your 'way out' proposal in detail.

While you appear to master the legal aspect of the issue fairly well, you fail to realize that the current actions lead by Mr. Olmert's cabinet has turned majority of the Lebanese against signing a peace treaty with Israel. Israel's retaliation against the abduction of it's two soldiers – no matter how justified this was – was so disproportionate, destructive, collective, and quite frankly unfair that it succeeded in showing that its intent was to destroy Lebanon and its economy and not Hezbollah.

Peace treaties are signed when people are ready for them. Currently the Lebanese in their majority aren’t. Unless of course, you are looking for the kind of peace treaties Israel signed with Egypt or Jordan (the fake type that is). A few months ago when in Beirut, I was thrilled about all the talks about a prospective peace with Israel. Yes my friend, if there is one nation in the Middle East that could have been Israel’s best ally especially from an economic perspective, it would have been Lebanon. Unfortunately this is in the past for now.

Mr. Olmert’s ‘strategy’ to turn Lebanon into an ally by neo-con bombing it has backfired. He played right into Mr. Bush’s war on terror game. And as is the case with the rise in anti-americanism thanks to Mr. Bush's strategic plans, Mr. Olmert is contributing to the rise in anti-semitism and anti-Israel rhetorics in almost every country around the globe.

However, I am not a pessimist and I do believe that the opportunity for peace will present itself. For this to happen, however, Israel needs to recognize the need to contribute in compensating the Lebanese for their losses.


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