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August 15, 2020

Politics of war

Opinion

August 15, 2020

On August 4, hours before a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued an ominous warning to Lebanon. “We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. I suggest to all of them, including Hezbollah, to consider this,” Netanyahu said during an official tour of a military facility in central Israel.

Netanyahu’s warning did not bode well for Israel when, hours later, a Hiroshima-like blast devastated entire sectors of Beirut. Those who suspected Israeli involvement in the deadly explosion had one more reason to point fingers at Tel Aviv.

In politics and in war, truth is the first casualty. We may never know precisely what transpired in the moments preceding the Beirut blast. Somehow, it may not matter at all, because the narrative regarding Lebanon’s many tragedies is as splintered as the country’s political landscape.

Judging by statements and positions adopted by the country’s various parties and factions, many seem to be more concerned with exploiting the tragedy for trivial political gain than in the tragedy itself. Even if the explosion was the unfortunate outcome of an accident resulting from bureaucratic negligence, sadly, it is still inconsequential. In Lebanon, as in much of the Middle East, everything is political.

What is almost certain about the future, however, is that the political discourse will eventually lead back to Israel versus Hezbollah. The former is keen at undermining the group’s influence in Lebanon, while the latter is insistent on thwarting Israel’s plans.

But what is Israel’s plan anyway? After decades of trying to destroy the Lebanese group, the Israeli government is keenly aware that eradicating Hezbollah militarily is no longer feasible, certainly not in the foreseeable future. The Lebanese group has proven its prowess on the battlefield when it played a major role in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in May 2000.

Subsequent Israeli attempts at reasserting its dominance on Lebanon’s southern border have, thus far, proven futile. The failed war of 2006 and the more recent conflagration of September 2019 are also two cases in point.

Hezbollah is uninterested in inviting another Israeli war on Lebanon, either. The country is on the verge of economic collapse, if it has not already collapsed.

While Lebanon has always been in the throes of political division and factionalism, the divisiveness of the current political mood in the country is more destructive than it has ever been. Losing hope in all political actors, the Lebanese people have taken to the street demanding basic rights and services, an end to the endemic corruption and a whole new social and political contract – unsuccessfully.

While stalemates in politics are somewhat ordinary occurrences, political deadlocks can be calamitous in a country on the brink of starvation. The Hiroshima-like cloud of explosives that shocked the world was a perfect metaphor for Lebanon’s seemingly endless woes.

Excerpted from: 'The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?'

Counterpunch.org