01/02/2009, 00.00
LEBANON
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From Beirut, solidarity with Palestinians of Gaza, but without military support

by Fady Noun
The Israeli attack is disproportionate, and the result of domestic propaganda in view of the elections. Hezbollah, close to Hamas, rejects the hypothesis of a new war with Israel, and calls for the opening of humanitarian corridors. Divisions in the Arab world do not favor of the resolution of the crisis.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Taking advantage of a "dead period" on the international level and a period of transition between the Republican and Democrat administrations in the United States, and a few weeks before the elections, Israel has unleashed a vast offensive against Gaza, begun with air raids of devastating impact. Of course, Hamas has provided Israel with the ideal pretext for doing so, preferring military escalation to the extension of a ceasefire maintained for a number of months with the Jewish state. But the means used by Israel are so disproportionate if they are compared with the violence that it has suffered, that it must be asked whether the Jewish state is not exploiting the naivety of its adversary, and whether this offensive is not part of the electoral campaign of the Kadima party. In any case, this is a genuine slaughter for which Israel must one day give an account.

In Lebanon, this drama is being experienced with preoccupation over the steps that might be taken by Hezbollah in order to help Hamas, its Sunni alter ego, both of them in the sphere of Iran's political-military influence. Like Hezbollah, Hamas is still considered a "terrorist organization" by a West that, taking its desires as reality, wipes out entire populations with the stroke of a pen when they are not to its liking.

So far, Hezbollah has given no impression of wanting to intervene militarily to help Hamas, by opening a second front beginning from southern Lebanon. With an arsenal of rockets much more powerful than that of Hamas, it might be tempted to do so, if the advantages on a strategic level were significant enough. But these advantages are not evident at the moment. Moreover, the memory of the war in July of 2006, with its train of death and devastation, is still vivid in the minds of the Lebanese, and above all, Hezbollah today is part of a national unity government. The movement is therefore aware of the fact that any initiative it might take would be seen by Israel as a rupture of the status quo with Lebanon, in violation of resolution 1701 of the United Nations, and this would lead to a devastating Israeli military action, as the war of 2006 showed.

In addition to this, in the words of President Michel Sleiman, the country has said "no" to a new war with Israel. Commenting, during a visit to the general headquarters of Finul in Naqoura, on the finding of eight rockets nearby, pointed toward Israel and programmed to be launched, the president said that Lebanon "is not a launching pad." In short, Lebanon must not be exploited, but utilized. This stance was confirmed two days later by the Lebanese government, according to which Lebanon's duty of solidarity toward Gaza will be manifested in the humanitarian, political, and diplomatic sectors.

For the moment, Hezbollah has chosen to carry forward a battle on the political level against Egypt, the largest Arab power on the regional level. The movement has directly urged the Egyptian population to use public protests to call for an opening of a corridor at the Rafah checkpoint, indispensable to military and civil resistance after the prolonged isolation of the Gaza Strip. Egypt has considered this appeal as a form of interference in its domestic affairs, and has reacted in an energetic manner. The opening of this corridor is, in reality, in complete contradiction with its policy of supporting the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and its president Mahmoud Abbas.

On December 31, an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers of Arab countries was held in Cairo, in order to discuss the crisis underway. As usual, this meeting was preceded by a series of preliminary work aimed at the drafting, in advance, of a "final statement" to be released at the end of the meeting. The draft of the joint statement, prepared by Egypt, advances the idea of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the resumption of dialogue, reconciliation between the Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas, and the creation of contacts on the regional and international level under the supervision of an Arab ministerial commission.

One of the weak points of the project is that Cairo, in the case of an agreement, would reject the hypothesis of a meeting of Arab countries, while Syria, which holds the rotating presidency of the Arab League, has called for an Arab summit to be held today, in Qatar, according to information from Doha. This is further proof of the fact that the disagreements within the Arab world are far from being resolved.

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