Sunday, August 16, 2020

  • Sunday, August 16, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
w460 (2)

 

From Naharnet:

President Michel Aoun seemed to leave the door open to eventual peace with Israel, in an interview with French news channel BFMTV.

Lebanon has technically been at war with neighboring Israel for decades, with tensions sporadically flaring in the border area in Lebanon's south, stronghold of Iran-backed Hizbullah.

Asked in an interview on BFMTV whether Lebanon would be prepared to make peace with Israel, Aoun responded: "That depends. We have problems with Israel, we have to resolve them first."

His statement came in the wake of an announcement Thursday that Israel would normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates, only the third Arab state to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel since its creation in 1948.

"It's an independent country," Aoun said of the UAE.

Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement has for years been politically allied with Hizbullah.

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday of the Israel-UAE agreement that "it's a betrayal of Jerusalem and the Palestinian people. It's a knife in the back."

Lebanon and Syria have been the most anti-Israel Arab countries, and Lebanon has been among the most antisemitic countries in the world. Even allowing for a possibility of a peace agreement with Israel is a huge shift.

Aoun is not ideological – he will align with whomever will save his political career (as would many Lebanese politicians.) And of course Hezbollah will block any possible peace with Israel. The reason that Aoun’s statement is groundbreaking is because it indicates that he is seeing the Lebanese people angry at Hezbollah as a major culprit in the Beirut explosion and he is hedging his bets with any possible popular uprising against Hezbollah and Iran. 

More importantly, even this mild statement weakens Hezbollah. Hezbollah pretends that it needs its arms to defend Lebanon from an Israeli enemy – if Israel is not the enemy, Hezbollah loses its entire reason for existing.  The Lebanese have deep memories of the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the wounds will not heal soon, but they are living under Hezbollah’s and Iranian implicit threats today. They are seeing Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah trying to blame Israel for the Beirut blast and they recognize it for what it is – an attempt to move attention away from Hezbollah’s responsibility for putting hundreds of thousands of dangerous weapons literally under Lebanese homes, mosques and churches.

If Hezbollah issues a blistering anti-Aoun statement, they risk losing a key ally and alienating many Lebanese even more. But it cannot ignore his words either. As of this writing, Hezbollah’s Al Manar news site has remained silent.

Practically speaking, what are the disputes between Israel and Lebanon today? Some very minor land  border disputes and some fairly important disputes over maritime borders where there are significant natural gas reserves. Israel would be very flexible on those issues in exchange for real peace.

And peace is the last thing that Hezbollah wants.

(Notably, a UAE businessman makes the case for peace between Lebanon and Israel in Haaretz.)



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