Middle East

Israel/Lebanon

Proxy Fight

Beginning Jan. 25, Hezbollah carried out a series of lethal attacks against IDF troops in south Lebanon, killing seven soldiers and wounding 16 over a three-week period. Retaliatory Israeli air strikes on three Lebanese power stations, which wounded at least 15 civilians and caused power outages for much of the Lebanese population, have raised tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border, prompted large-scale demonstrations in Beirut, and cast doubt on the future of peace talks. The hope that the resumption of Syrian-Israeli negotiations in late 1999 would quell violence in Israel’s South Lebanon occupation zone calm has proved illusory. Tel Aviv’s liberal Ha’aretz, in a Feb. 1 editorial, urged Prime Minister Ehud Barak to revise his July 7 date for an unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon, asserting that it would be “both a political and military necessity.”

Renowned Israeli writer David Grossman urged in a much discussed op-ed in the centrist Yediot Ahronot (Feb. 8) that “Israel has to begin leaving now. Evacuate the outposts, bring the soldiers home and redeploy at the border. Go. Learn to live with the insult, swallow the empty pride, stop feeding the fire of our pitiful arrogance still left in us with more and more of our young soldiers dying.” An editorial in Tel Aviv’s daily Ma’ariv (Feb. 1) posits that Barak has two options in dealing with the border tensions. He can either carry out intensive military operations or pull out of Lebanon. “Worst of all is to continue the stalemate and do nothing.” According to Syrian journalist Sobhi Hadidi the recent events in Lebanon suggest that the door for resuming negotiations is still wide open. Writing in the Palestinian-expatriate Al-Quds al Arabi of London (Feb. 11), Hadidi says that although Israel did considerable damage in Lebanon, it was largely “tactical” in nature: The IDF had instructions not to hit strategic Syrian assets.

However, writes Abdul Wahab-Bad-rakhan in the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat (Feb. 9): “It is as if Lebanon has been chosen to be the scorched earth.”

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