Taking the Real Initiative!

Because we have long stopped taking the initiative, because we always wait for the perfect deal to be put in our lap, because we continue to refuse to challenge the system and the status quo and prefer to resign ourselves to what we have or allowed to have, our leaders have become nothing more than incompetent, corrupt and sadistic nincompoops adept only at oppressing us and stealing our land’s resources and whatever foreign crumbs that are sent our way as “development aid.”

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.

9 thoughts on “Taking the Real Initiative!

  1. Siniora has to walk a very thin line. However, my intuition tells me that maybe he is not the boldest man, but not by any stretch, the dumbest either.Intuitively…I am feeling that Siniora sees the enormous opportunity that could be pulled from these ashes and that lives, both Lebanese (and Persian I suspect) and Israeli would not have been wasted. Did you here his comment? I LOVED it!!! Transparent, but beautiful.”Any aggressive acts from Lebanon will be considered aiding the enemey (Israel) by giving them a pretext to attack us”. Walking the tightrope with that comment.So…I have moved from despair to hope. Also…I have a suggestion for a “bold move” from the Arab world. Something creative…recognize Jerusalem as the enternal capital of the Jewish people. Now before you start yapping at me…take a moment to think that through clearly. How VERY little the Arab/Palestinian world has to lose (just pride really) and what an enormous gesture of goodwill and risk taking that would be. Of course various accessibilty issues would have to be worked out blah blah. Such a move though would create an enormous cognitive dissonance in the Jewish world. I think the door would open for all kinds of deal making. Jerusalem does not mean all that much to most folks in the ME…but it is beyond explaination in importance to us.

  2. Ammar, do you really think Lebanon will try again to sign a peace treaty with Israel without Syria??I wish you were more excited about the test ballons from Israel about startign negotiations with Syria, even if it empowers “the Assads”.But I agree with you on the Syrian lack of innitiatives teh pat few decades. But you and I know that these days, there was some Syrian innitiative behind the scene.We’ll see.Howie, logically speaking, Jerusalem means nothing to Arbs or Jews. No one needs it to breathe or to survive on this earth. The solution that Rabin and Assad Sr. talked about at the time makes the most sense. Both sides can have “jerusalem” The Arabs would be happy with some areas around Jeruslame, plus their Moslem and Christian holy places. You can keep most of the real city.Cognitive dissonace on the Israeli side started already. Thise who started the war with this mentality are now having cognitive dissonace about the wisdom of seeking security through Israel’s threat of military punishment to its neighbors.It could go either way, but I hope Peretz and Dichter’s direction wins.Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service and a member of the ruling Kadima party, said “In return for a true peace with Syria or with Lebanon, over those issues that from the standpoint of the land have a history, which we know and the Syrians know and the Lebanese know, I think that what we did with Egypt and with Jordan is legitimate here as well.”

  3. I know that I am a Plebe regarding this issue however, why would a country agree to let land go in return for “peace” when they had just experienced a situation where they had conceeded land that is now being used to attack their country (behind the blue line)??? Also, in regard to Hisboallah, why would Israel conceed more land,like the Golan or the Shabaa, when they are being attacked into their blue line boundaries?Does the idea of ceeding more land make any sense to anyone? Please keep your nationalistic feelings at bay when answering this question…Why is it that Syria is so intent on re-supplying Hizbollah?Meanwhile, Shiite citizens are being struck down by snipers in Iraq. Over 100 were killed today… Why is it that Muslim on Muslim killing is so much more insignificant than Muslim on Israeli killing or visa versa?It is all a parallel reality. People being slaughtered by Muslims in Iraq and Darfur don’t count. A single person killed by the Israeli’s is reason to take to the streets. Does anyone see the disconnect here?

  4. Amar, in all honesty I think that you are asking for a miracle. Siniora taking the initiative??? You must be kidding, the guy thus far has managed to move from one appeasement to another. Yet I hope that I am wrong and that a Siniora or even better the Arab politicians as a group will take the initiative to benefit the region and to force Israel to save itself. No one can exist as a Sparta forever and Israel will have to arrive at an arrangement with the Palestinians if it wishes to establish itself in the Middle East. The sooner it comes to that realization the better.Note what the Arab countries as a whole have achieved in almost sixty years. If an agreement is to be arrived at tomorrow beteewn Israel and the Palestinians, it is fair to assume that one cannot hope for more that most of the land prior to 1967 given back by the state of Israel. Even if that is to happen, as unlikely as it might be, the Arab side would wind up with less land than what it was offered by the UN and what the Israelis were willing to accept back in 1948. So what was the idea behind all of these wars? Why did we rob the future generations of so much hope and so many possibilities? The answer is clear though. Our side, the Arab side, just could not take the initiative to end the misery, death, hatred and squolor that have followed. Would Siniora surprise us, as Sadat did, I sure hope so. Unfortunately I am not holding my breath in anticipation.

  5. Western guy, the disconnect is all too glaring not to be noticeable. As for returning the Shebaa Farms, and note I did not say anything about the Golan, is because it can serve as means for disarming Hezbollah by removing the very foundation of its claim for needing to be armed. Now, this is not going to be easy, Hezbollah will try to foil it. It can also raise the issue of the Seven Villages, that are not part of the Shebaa Farms but also claimed by Hezbollah. The size of the Shebaa Farms themselves, is subject to debate, and Hezbollah would insist on the maximalist interpretation which will not be acceptable to Israelis. So, even if a deal is signed Hezbollah will still object to it. But, coupled with a good public diplomacy on part of Siniora et al, such stands by Hezbollah could discredit it in the eyes of many of its supporters, because they will be exposed as mere tactics for waylaying peace and keeping the arms. Still, there is definitely an element of risk involved for all sides here.

  6. Ghassan, I agree with you. There is a lot of wishful thinking on my part here. I knew that as i was writing the post. But sometimes, you need to wish.

  7. I would imagine Hizbullah would not allow Seniora to sign a peace treaty with Israel and Israel would not want to sign such a treaty until Hizbullah has been disarmed. Chicken and egg. Syria would like to keep it that way, so don’t hold your breath.I don’t blame Assad Sr. for not compromising over the Golan. I have always held the view that it is foolish to negotiate from a position of weakness. The Israelis can keep the Golan for another 50 years as far as I am concerned. Anyway, they are better at developing it than us! I blame Assad Sr for brainwashing an entire generation of syrians into worshipping political leaders rather than science and development. Our fundamental weakness as a nation stems from autocracy and graft which leave no room for real progress or the exercise of collective wisdom. We will continue to chase our own tails and spiral downwards until the current leadership comes to its senses or it is toppled by a better breed of army generals. No one alse has the power to change the status quo.

  8. Western guy-You ask some pointed questions that I have yet seen a honest answer to in terms of Muslims killing Muslims etc. I can only guess is that hatred guides actions often more than reason. I would also guess, no I know, that some would answer “our affairs are our affairs”. In terms of conceding land…you ask a question a lot of Israeli’s ask. Why should we? When I hear Arabs talking about not trusting Assad and how he has betrayed Syria and Lebanon…it would seem a reasonable bet that he would betray Israel. If Israel were to concede land…it would be almost an “OK…I have been nice to you…now you be nice back”. This kind of worked with Egypt…they have not been real nice, but not terrible either. It fell apart with Lebanon and it fell apart with Gaza. If, say Syria were to jump in first and say, recognize Isarel and Jerusalem as its capital, that would get a lot of Israel’s attention, but would also likely really irritate other Moslem/Arab countries. So Syria, even if their hearts opened and the regime wanted to do this, they would, I believe take a whole lot of heat.And that is just a superficial glance of a very complex issue that invovles fighting political, religious and social camps, memories of betryal, need for revenge, distrust, fear, hatred and little things like that.By-the-way Karam…you make many very astute points…you have certainly won my respect.

  9. Howie,IMHO your last comment was overly simplistic. Its not about who is brave enough to make the first move or any “polite” gesture. Even if it was I doubt it that would come in the form of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.I think what it boils down to is a very simple question. What would the Israeli government (not people) gain from peace or even negotiations? Assuming that Syria will remain adamant on returning all of the Golan the answer will be… nothing. As mentioned earlier I believe the Israeli government strategic interest lie in a hostile environment instead of a peaceful one. For as long as there is a threat of war there will be a steady flow of billions in financial and military aid to the country. So why should they let the region prosper as well when they can do it alone? Excluding of course the handful of Israeli civilian casualties that are not only an acceptable margin but a fuel to the conflict’s fire.This said I don’t believe the blame lies fully on Israel’s shoulders. But Israel has the upper hand and can shift the situation either way. Tel Aviv prefers a weak Syria so that they can never need to worry about giving the Golan back. Otherwise they could have easily completed a land for peace deal with Syria which the latter would have certainly abided by and then watch the Damascus be judged on social/economic issues instead of the political ones which has been the main purpose for its survival in this current form.

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