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The fight goes out of Israel

02 November 2006

AGAINST EXPECTATIONS, the ceasefire in Lebanon appears to have held. It wainstructive to see how quickly the initiative passed from the military to thpoliticians and commentators, indicating once again the frightening power oprimitive adrenalin during a conflict, however sophisticated the weaponryAfter the rush, for Israel at least, came the let-down. The two capturesoldiers who triggered the war have still not been returned; Hizbollastrongholds are still within striking distance of Israel; the reputation of thterrorists has been enhanced in the eyes of their supporters in Syria and Iran

By contrast, the Hizbollah leadership was able somehow to stand amid thrubble of southern Lebanon and declare a "strategic, historic victory"Estimates of civilians deaths in Lebanon range from 700 to 1100; those injurefar exceed this number. The infrastructure in the southern half of the countr- power stations, water plants, petrol stations, transport links - is virtualldestroyed, along with many hundreds of houses. Nearly a million Lebanese wersaid to have abandoned their homes. That Hizbollah can describe this as victory is another sign that the terrorist organisation is merely a cuckoo ithe Lebanese nest, bearing no responsibility for the people among whom it tooits stand against Israel.

Hizbollah's victory can be considered such only by the standards of Pyrrhuswhose victories over the Romans left him too weak to prosecute his plans oexpansion into Italy. Israel's defeat, if such a word can be used, is judged sonly when set against the impossible expectations with which its political anmilitary leaders began their Lebanese campaign. Its losses were relativelslight; yet 40 of its citizens and more than 100 of its soldiers lie dead, anit is hard to see that anything significant has been gained. Arab aggression ino help to the many Iraelis who have consistently counselled peace; none thless, the idea that Israel could fight its way to a secure and stablrelationship with its neighbours was so patently misguided that it could bheld with conviction only by those who were religiously motivated.

The key to peace in the Middle East continues to lie with the PalestiniansIf Israel can come to some sort of accommodation, agreed by the Palestiniansit might still be possible to deflect the threats from more distant and morpowerful neighbours. It would certainly be easier to attract support from othenations which are at present repelled by the intractable nature of threlationship. For this to happen, territorial competition will need to bsorted out< href="/80256fa1003e05c1/httppublicpages/0f36b080cd93857e802571cd00409fae?opendocumentsee comment), and threats of violence must cease. nothing of this has beehelped by the conflict
), and threats of violence must cease. nothing of this has beehelped by the conflict

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