And because our leaders seem to have dealt with the outsides world with the same lack of imagination and initiative with which we tended to deal with them (and why not? After all, our leaders do not come from a different planet), our fate as viable and sovereign states seems to be forever tied to developments beyond our control.
For example, because Hafiz al-Assad did not “run towards peace” in the 90s, since that would not have looked too “dignified,” even though it is indeed our land and our people that are under occupation, our fate was repeatedly sealed by individual developments, including the assassination of Israeli PM Yitshak Rabin by a deranged individual and getting cold feet with regard to the case of Israeli PM Ehud Barak.
Indeed, we took the initiative only twice in this conflict. Unsurprisingly, both initiatives were purely military. The first time paved the way for an unmitigated disaster, from our point of view of course. This was the Arab-led war of 1948. The second time came in 1973 when only Egypt managed to actually capitalize on the initial military coup that transpired in the early phase of the war. The Egyptians succeeded in this on account of their President Anwar al-Sadat’s diplomatic boldness in the years following the conclusion of the war, and his willingness to go the distance and “force” the Israelis to come to terms with the eventuality of having to return the occupied Sinai in full.
For his part, Hafiz al-Assad failed to be make himself relevant to the process. Some analysts seem to suggest that, for all his smarts, Assad Sr. allowed himself to be maneuvered out of the ongoing talks by Kissinger and others. Perhaps this is true, but that only serves to illustrate the point about the necessity of taking the initiative and of being proactive, and not waiting for the perfect deal to begin with, not to mention waiting for it to be handed to you by others.
As for our current “victory,” well, in pure military terms, it led to nothing but a stand-off that is still open on all possibility: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But for it to develop into a real diplomatic coup that could indeed pave the way for saving Lebanon from the impending mayhem in the region, taking it once and for all out of the conflict equation, Lebanon’s current leaders should themselves come out with a strong proposal for peace with Israel. There is ample justification for this move at this stage, including the necessity of capitalizing on the said “victory” to achieve the liberation of the Shebaa Farms and the return of the Lebanese prisoners still languishing in Israeli jails. The disarmament of Hezbollah, in full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, will have to be part of the deal, of course, and that is indeed the tricky part.
But, if concluded, a peace accord with Israel, and no matter how retroactively, will help mitigate the recent havoc that was wrought on Lebanon and some meaning might still emerge out of this seemingly senseless venture. Indeed, the risks involved in such a process are as high as the stakes. And, for all practical purposes, the Lebanese PM, Fouad Siniora, will have to emerge as the potential champion or fall-guy in this scenario. But the potential dividends of peace might be worth the risk.
Indeed, Fouad Siniora’s latest statements in Stockholm and his allusion that a wise Israeli policy could help pave the way for real peace might indicate that he is inclined to take such a step. Should he do that, it will be up to regional powers such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and international powers, such as the US and France, to protect and support him.
For while the necessary criteria for holding a Madrid II Conference seem to be absent, especially with regard to the quality of the currently available regional and international leaders, the criteria for such smaller step may not. But if they are, then, Armageddon is indeed upon us, and the Hour is Very Nigh.