Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Brookings Panel on the Gaza/Lebanon Crisis

July 17, 2006

Brookings Panel on the Gaza/Lebanon Crisis

Four leading panelists appeared at the Brookings Institution Monday to discuss and debate the current violence in Israel and Lebanon and the conflict between Hamas and Hizbollah. Martin Indyk, a Middle East expert and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Nahum Barnea, the leading political columnist with Israel’s Yediot Aharonot, Hisham Melhem, the Washington correspondent for Al-Nahar, and Shibley Telhami, the nonresident Senior Fellow for the Saban Center and professor of Peace and Development studies at the University of Maryland were featured at the event.

Their dialogue focused on the current developments in the region, including the presence of armed forces in Southern Lebanon and the recent raid in which two Israeli soldiers were captured, which has led to open warfare. The Gaza/Lebanon crisis was also argued at length and the United States’ role in it was discussed.

Barnea, who represented the Israeli side of the conflict, argued that every crisis is an opportunity and in this crisis, there must be an opportunity to diminish the power of Hizbollah. He added that Israel’s main objective is to retrieve the kidnapped soldiers and to remove Hizbollah from the South.

Melhem, who described the Lebanese side of the conflict, said that the Lebanese reaction to the destruction and ongoing battle was one of “horror, disgust, and anger at the Israelis”. Melhem added that President Bush’s attempt to spread democracy has essentially reached a dead end. He concluded by saying that Lebanon will be going through a very ugly period in the next few weeks and/or months as a result of this crisis.

Telhami raised two main points in regards to the strategic goals in the region: one, that democracy should not be on the agenda right now and should merely be forgotten about; and two, that we should think about the gap between established states and non-state actors on the issue of deterrence. “Our world,” Telhami noted, “is not a perfect world of states,” and we must consider all who are affected and their many identities, including the cultural, ethical, and religious elements of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan as well as the states most directly involved.

Last, Indyk, who previously served President Clinton, spoke of the wrongdoings of the Bush administration in this matter. Indyk said Bush’s plan to push democracy in Lebanon was not an effective way to intervene and as a result, the United States lost its stabilizing force there. In addition, Indyk emphasized that Bush’s stress on elections as a vehicle to promote democracy was erroneous based on politicians using elections merely to gain power.

To conclude, it is noteworthy to sum up Indyk’s idea for a diplomatic initiative in the Gaza/Lebanon region: first, that a cease-fire must occur, second, that a return to the armistice agreement of 1949 between Lebanon and Israel is necessary, third, that a disbanding of all militias included Hizbollah must occur, and fourth, that the Israeli soldiers must be returned. Alas, although many intelligent strategies were raised, Melhem underscored that there is no way to fix this ongoing crisis without inevitable escalation.

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