Kicking and Screaming: Lebanon and Future War with Israel
By Garrett Khoury Special to Ya Libnan Militias, “The Resistance,” terror groups, and liberation organizations. What do they all have in common for Lebanon?
They all serve to undermine the state and drag Lebanon towards inevitable recurring conflicts with Israel.
Recent reports on the launching of rockets from Lebanon into Israel have brought the issue of Lebanon’s weak internal security services back to the forefront of Middle East policy circles. The usual suspects, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), have denied any involvement in the attacks, and Israel sources have pointed towards the culprits possibly being a new pro-Saudi group called the “Jihad Movement for Gaza,” operating from the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Sidon. If true, this group represents a new factor in the proxy war being fought by numerous countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, for control over Lebanese politics and territory. Reports of a possible kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, similar to that which started the 2006 war with Hezbollah, point towards the possibility of growing tensions along the border with Israel.
For all the trouble Lebanon went through to elect an acceptable President for the republic, little has changed in the way of strength of the Lebanese state. Rogue groups, operating from Lebanese territory, dictate the foreign policy of the state with their attacks on Israeli territory. In the case of the Palestinian militias, they lash out from the relative safety of the camps against Israel to show they are not an impotent force. Also, the communal strife within the camps often spills outside of them, into the cities, such as the fighting between Fatah and Jund al-Sham. For others, such as Hezbollah, they stock arms and perpetrate random attacks in the name of “the resistance.” The PFLP-GC maintains, with Syrian aid, a well armed and trained force that operates from bases fortified with anti-aircraft weaponry, artillery, and supposedly even armored vehicles. The stocks and capabilities of Hezbollah are unknown to few. Such facts do not lend themselves to being evidence of an effective state.
How does Lebanon reassert its sovereignty over its land? Sovereignty over a territorial claim is what makes a state a state, yet Lebanon cannot claim to have this. What can the Republic do?
One doesn’t have to look far to find what Lebanon’s options are. Jordan faced very much the same predicament in 1970, when the Yasser Arafat led PLO was operating as a state-within-a-state, attacking Israel (which inevitably drew a military response) and putting Jordanians themselves under a state of siege. King Hussein saw the writing on the wall: either he could act decisively, or watch as his nation was carved up by militants. He chose to act, and crushed the PLO while he had the strength. But is this really the answer for Lebanon? Thousands were killed in what became known as “Black September” in Jordan. As a nation that in the last forty years has endured civil wars and occupation by various local powers, is Lebanon ready to make the sort of sacrifices necessary to vigorously reassert central government control?
It would not be a horrible thing to say no to the military option. But it would indeed be wrong to say that Lebanon should go on with maintaining the status quo. Bringing the militias, terrorist groups, or whatever they may be called, under control is essential to the survival of the Lebanese state. Whether through diplomatic means or otherwise, the state must reign in the actions of renegade and non-state actors in Lebanon. It is in the State’s best interest; not doing so jeopardizes not only Lebanon’s internal security, but also makes it vulnerable to reprisal attacks by its neighbors. The Palestinians must remember that they are in Lebanon, and are therefore subject to the laws of the State. This also applies to Hezbollah and other Lebanese armed parties. Nations who find it prudent to fight proxy wars via various forces in Lebanon should resign themselves to having to having to solve their disputes through more direct means.
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