Status quo ante bellum: A Possibility In Lebanon?
Regardless, Hezbollah and the IDF still fired against one another in ‘lighter’ skirmishes post the 0500 GMT deadline yesterday. In fact Sunday night and early Monday morning saw the most intense fighting between both sides as they sought to inflict more damage before the ceasefire was to take effect.
The ‘official’ end of the war brought detrimental economic, civilian and infrastructural damage to both sides. According to the Lebanese government, 1,071 Lebanese have been killed (mostly civilians). On the other hand, the news agencies estimate conservatively that 900 Lebanese have been killed and place an upper aggressive estimate of 1,150. The Israeli side witnessed the death of 114 IDF soldiers and 43 civilians.
Even worse, according to the UNHCR and the Lebanese government, 700,000 – 900,000 Lebanese have been displaced. Human Rights Watch estimates 500,000 Israelis have been displaced as well. The actual 34 days of fighting cost Lebanon a conservative estimate of $2.5 billion in losses and $1.1 billion was incurred by the state of Israel.
However, the costs are just beginning to kick in. Lebanon’s foreign real estate investments as well as the income continuously derived from tourism have plummeted. Moreover, the ‘expected’ income from these two sources for the following years has also plummeted.
The results of the conflict:
1) The passing of UN resolution 1701 which called for a peacekeeping force stationed in southern Lebanon (15,000 Lebanese army personnel and 15,000 UN troops).
2) Israel did not accomplish its goal of ‘eliminating’ Hezbollah. In fact, in many respects Hezbollah has gained more credibility as a viable political and military power in Lebanon.
3) Contrary to the previous point, it is still unclear what will become of Hezbollah’s position within Lebanon’s borders. They have angered many Shia businessmen who had poured millions of dollars in investments around the country.
4) The Lebanese population (to an extent) remains split with regards to their position on Hezbollah. The poor echelons of society see Hezbollah as their liberator and savior whereas on the contrary the richer niches of society see peace with Israel and the absence of violence more beneficial to their well being (regardless of their sectarian affiliation – even Shia).
5) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been greatly criticized in the Knesset by both the Labor and Likud parties for various reasons. Firstly, he initiated a conflict which Israel did not finish and was not able to complete in a timely manner and instead wasted the lives of the civilians and of the IDF. Secondly, he was criticized for not being tougher with Hezbollah thus achieving the government’s goal of incapacitating the group and halting all future threat to Israel.
6) Hezbollah has gained further support from Syria and Iran who rejoiced after Hezbollah’s resistance against Israeli forces and their ability to inflict substantial damage on Israeli soil. Both countries considered the battle a victory for Hezbollah
7) The war was overall a complete waste with lives lost, economies tarnished and no peace agreement signed. However, it did send very powerful messages which have rippled across the Arab world and as far West as the United States. Ahmadinejad and Assad embodied such a message in their post-bellum speeches,
“[Israel] is in front of an historic crossroads — either it [Israel] moves toward peace and gives back rights or faces constant instability until a generation comes and puts an end to the issue”
Hezbollah is much more powerful than Israel previously anticipated and as I mentioned in my previous post, the crux of its foundation relies on an ‘idea’ and a ‘concept’ of resistance which will continue to prevail.
8) The apathy and acquiescence of neighboring Arab governments cannot continue. The conflict proved that one can certainly not rely on the West and especially the United States to find a solution to the overall Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as the general hatred towards the state of Israel. Leaders of the Arab world must take a more proactive and pragmatic approach to the situation and most importantly need to decide which side they belong to; in this case among Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Iran – quite a decision to be made.
The status quo ante bellum in Lebanon? Not for a while.
Lebanon has much work to do to reach its position prior to July 12th. More important than the mere status quo is the assurance that security will be maintained. While Hezbollah’s future remains somewhat esoteric at this point, the current situation within Lebanon’s borders is floating on a sponge which is willing to absorb a multiplicity of changes such as the:
• Empowerment of Hezbollah politically
• Weakening of Hezbollah politically
• Reintroduction of Syria in Lebanese politics
• Repulsion of Syria from Lebanese politics
• Shifting of relations among the sectarian lines within Lebanon