Thursday, August 03, 2006

A ceasefire? What then?

As the righteously indignant cry out for a ceasefire 'immediately and unconditionally', what do they imagine is going to happen afterwards? Will Hezbollah turn their Katyushas into ploughshares and settle down to till their fields in peace with their neighbours? Will they hunker down and concentrate on their social work with a little political dabbling in Beirut? Will the Iranians take their rockets, advisors and soldiers and shuffle off to Tehran muttering, 'Well, we tried'?

Wouldn't it just be like what happened the other night when Israel observed a ceasefire only to be attacked with an even greater number of rockets the moment hostilities were resumed? An agreement with Hezbollah that leaves it in a dominant position in Southern Lebanon would merely give it a chance to plan better for the next time. It would give Nasrallah a platform from which to crow victory over the great enemy of all Muslims and would confirm the growing regional power of Iran. The Israelis should not stop until Hezbollah is very badly hurt and incapable of reasserting its power in the area. If Israel achieves that, they will have done the best possible in the circumstances.

It is difficult to see anything of deeper importance being settled. The feeble signs of normalisation that were present before the earlier, Palestinian kidnappings have been crushed. Abu Mazen's moves to force Hamas into a referendum over the recognition of Israel have been swept away in the whirlwind just as the recovery of Lebanon, so bright a beacon in that benighted region, has been smothered and snuffed out. Exactly as so often before. The Islamists have returned the situation to a state in which they can deal with it - on the verge of complete social collapse, desperate so that only desperate voices are heard. Nothing Israel does can alleviate this because the real problem is not theirs. To quote Boris Johnson in today's Telegraph

The real problem in the region is not Israel, but what it represents to the Islamicists who surround it. The difference between Israel and her neighbours is that Israel is a capitalist democracy, with all the freedom and tawdriness that entails. They don't give a monkey's in Teheran about the fate of the poor Palestinians. Israel incarnates everything the mullahs hate, not least the spectacle of liberated womanhood that they find so appalling and so shamingly tempting. Israel provides a focus for the resentment of a Muslim civilisation that finds itself materially and intellectually humiliated by the achievements of America and the West.
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