The Middle East peace process breathed its last breath, the day Israel attacked Lebanon. The offensive followed days of barbaric assaults against Gaza and other Palestinian areas. And now we're back at square one. Negotiations are all but forgotten and no one dares speak of peace efforts anymore. All we have now is fury, with Israel bringing its vengeance to bear on its foes.
The Lebanese people, without help from the Arabs, are once again left with little option but to fight and resist. Israel, meanwhile, is killing and dismembering in the hope of restoring its lost dignity. Israel still thinks it can sort things out with fire and bloodshed. This war has nothing to do with the freeing of the two captured soldiers. Israel has a plan for Lebanon and the region, and this is just one part of it.
Israel wants to turn the Lebanese public against the resistance. It wants Lebanon to aid and abet American hegemony in the region. Some parties in Lebanon have been of two minds about the resistance, and Israel wants them to do Washington's bidding. Israel is bombing, shelling and settling accounts, and in its attempts to eliminate the Lebanese resistance is being aided by Arab silence, global indifference and American backing. Israel is seeking to avenge its humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and wants to remove Hezbullah from the equation, thereby weakening Arab and Islamic resolve. It seeks to undermine any confidence Arabs may have gained when American schemes in Afghanistan and Iraq came crashing down on the heads of the U.S. administration.
The Israeli government believes that Lebanon is the weakest link in the alliance of resistance forces. Israel has tried to break Hamas and has failed, despite assassinations, wholesale destruction and plans for redeployment. Israel has thusfar failed to achieve any of its explicit or implicit objectives. Tel Aviv has failed to free its captive soldiers in Lebanon and Palestine, and is facing stiff resistance on every front. The war against Lebanon will not be easy. The Lebanese resistance has the resolve, support and tactical experience to pose a serious challenge to Israel, despite the latter's military superiority.
But the destruction of an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast came as a surprise. Hezbullah has also shelled targets deep inside Israel, and Hezbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah wasn't bluffing when he said this was just the beginning. Hostilities have reached a point where the belligerents no longer speak of exchanging prisoners. A battle of wills is under way and there is every possibility that Damascus and perhaps even Tehran will be dragged into the conflict. The Israelis may act erratically - under domestic pressure - and threaten or even bomb Iran's Embassy in Beirut. While the Israelis and the Americans may not want this war to turn into a regional conflict, once the first shot was fired, anything can happen.