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State-to-state

March 14’s quest for independence has been proven insincere by the coalition’s failure to foster a policy for peace talks with Israel. It has instead tied the fate of negotiations to a toothless Arab Peace Initiative. If other Arab countries are to decide Lebanon’s foreign policy, then we can kiss goodbye genuine independence.

As Lebanon will never defeat Israel militarily, its “conflict” with the Jewish state can only be resolved by diplomacy, despite the failure of successive Lebanese governments to endorse such a track.  They have instead delegated the business of war to Hezbollah and peace to the Arab League. Such governmental behavior has proven detrimental to the principle of Lebanese independence.

Throughout the 1990s, the world grew accustomed to a Lebanese government unwilling or unable to deal with relations with its neighbor; delegations have either discussed Lebanese-Israeli peace in Damascus or arrived at truces with Hezbollah. None of these agreements have gone through a sovereign Lebanese state, except in August 2006, when Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s cabinet served as a conduit between Hezbollah and the United Nations to end the July War.

Now we hear that US President Barak Obama’s peace team, led by former Senator George Mitchell, has decided to turn a new page. Mitchell argues that peace can only come by talking to all parties, but does he know that, since May 17, 1983, when Beirut inked a peace treaty with Tel Aviv, the Lebanese state has taken a back seat in dealings with Israel?

Yet Mitchell’s approach might finally offer Lebanon a chance to change the game. According to the Mitchell team, finding solutions for the Lebanese-Israeli conflict is easiest if pared down to Lebanon’s two pending issues with its southern neighbor: the disputed Shebaa Farms area and the roughly 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

Both Hezbollah and Syria have used the Shebaa farms to undermine peace between Lebanon and Israel and to keep Damascus in the driving seat when it comes to negotiations. The area is widely believed to be part of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, therefore part of Israeli talks with Syria. Damascus, for its part, has repeatedly said this barren sliver of land belongs to Lebanon, but refused to provide the United Nations with any documentation to this effect.

A number of Lebanese officials have suggested that the easiest way to neutralize the situation is a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the area, which would remove all debate (the area is Lebanese after all) and deny Hezbollah its raison d’être.

Tel Aviv has refused, believing – based on past experience – that any unilateral withdrawal from Arab territory will always be interpreted as a military victory for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. To avoid such a scenario, Israel proposed that Lebanon regain Shebaa Farms through diplomacy, even if it is backroom diplomacy. After all, Hezbollah has negotiated with Israel – indirectly – for a prisoner swap deal in the past. Why can’t such an arrangement work for the Lebanese government?

Then there are Lebanon’s 400,000 Palestinian refugees. It is understood that 10% of them will be offered the right of return to their villages inside Israel. The rest will be given the right of return to the Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza. All of them will be also given the choice to immigrate to Western countries.

With Shebaa and the refugees out of the way, Lebanon and Israel can sign a peace treaty, during which they draw their common borders and agree on the allocation of water resources, as per international agreements.

The outgoing March 14-led government did little to advance this cause. In fact, since the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, both governments have failed to produce a policy on Israel. The Mitchell team is determined to change all this, but they need the help of Lebanon’s leaders, who must not be shy about talking peace with Israel, just like their Syrian and Palestinian brethren. The rest will become details.

  • Sami

    "everything is pointing to HA being abandoned. And at the end of the day, they will be."These are your words but I do not read any mention of the word "countries" anywhere.But even if you "meant" countries then lets just wait and see.The weapons are still poring in to reach 80,000 missiles so far.More to come don't be scared ...

    August 31, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    If u READ carefully, i mentioned that HA is being abandoned by countries. did not say they are being abandoned by the shia population in lebanon. My GOD sami. Really..what is wrong with your mental capacity. Please copy paste where i said the SHIA are abandoning HS. u r so good at copy pasting it should take 2 sec for you.. And if you want to play the numbers game, Aoun had 75% of christian support in 2005, and i do not know where u got 54%, but now he has 40-45% of the christian support. Aoun lost 25-30% of the christian support because of his allaince with HA. Let us call oranges what they are. That is the reason he lost that support yes? And in 2013, you will definatly lose the christian cover, i anticiapte his support dropping to 30-35% in 2013.

    August 31, 2009

  • Sami

    You "opinion" is that HA is being abandoned but only a month ago ALL his candidates won.ALL the Shiaa and 54% of the Christians support HA,can you say the same about any political figure in Lebanon.Sit down and start comparing.When samahet Al Sayyed is scheduled to give a speech,all of the Arab/Islamic world waits in anticipation including Israel's population.Can you say the same about Jaejae?How many people listen to him when he talks.Numbers ,habibi,numbers talk not "shnookem" .

    August 30, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    well no question about your father, i am sure he is as brainwashed as you, dont be upset that i have something called an opinion. And if you think i am under 18 you are dissing yourself, cause a kid just showed you up in all your conversations and posts. you can call me the m14 "boyscout" but i dont ride a motorcycle..lol.. and dont worry about my father, and my family honor.. the likes of you should look in the mirror before talking about shame and dignity. And again.. no logical answer, u make a great online jester, im sure your father is proud of that as well.

    August 30, 2009

  • Sami

    Shnookem? I hoe your father is watching your Internet access and monitoring your posts,as you are bringing shame to your family.Nowlebanon should make it a rule to be over 18 before you can post here.

    August 29, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    Hahahahahaha.. you make it sound... again.. ;like u need an excuse. you will keep them regardless, untill that day comes. Read the post below... everything is pointing to HA being abandoned. And at the end of the day, they will be. End of conversation.. Its closer than you think.. CYA shnookem... and enjoy the ride

    August 23, 2009

  • Sami

    So now we have 3,475 more excuses after the return of the farms.On this level we are keeping our arms till the return of Christ or Al Mahdi.Thank you for making up more excuses than we have.To us "defending Lebanon" is the only excuse ,but if you like to add more then we are happy to oblige.

    August 23, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    the holly comandments of Syria and Iran ;) i think you can figure out the how. remember who said it first. and yes .. my post was in reply to you naming 3,476 other excuses for your arms to stay. You have a problem with comprehending dont you? and you try to blame me for failure to comprehend, it is ok.. if it makes u feel better and helps you sleep at night. in reply to you putting up all those excuses i emphasized that i mentioned AN.. this is the last time i will be your english teacher, i told u ill be more than happy to hire a tutor for you.

    August 23, 2009

  • Sami

    Arzak,I read you well,I said there are other excuses besides the return of the farms.Read my reply well,I know you can read but unfortunately you cant comprehend all I write as I am over and above your level.I wish you can tell us as to how and whom will disarm HA.

    August 22, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    And Sami, one last thing.. if you read properly, (I know you can do it.. try) i said .. "if the farms are returned, that takes away an excuse for HA to be armed." One more time.. so we can give you some practice... that takes away AN... emphasis...AN excuse for HA to be armed.. dont be offended, we all know there are plenty of EXCUSES for HA to be armed.

    August 21, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    Funny.. in another article you called someone michel hayek no.2 now you yourself are trying to take his spot. Rest assured, i say, the day is nearer than you think. Iran is already buckling under the pressure.. internal, as well as external. Iran is already allowing the U.N. nuclear watchdog into town. Syria is getting cozy in our neck of the woods. Your time may not be long at all. Hold on to your pants, its going to be one hell of a ride. you dont need to mention reasons for HA to keep thier arms, even if ll those are dealt with, your beloved party will not give up its weapons. But as i said, there are other ways of taking them. ;)

    August 21, 2009

  • Sami

    Once the farms are returned,there remains the issues of defending Lebanon,the army in incapable of doing so.Then remains the issue of the 7 villages that must be returned.Then remains the issue of the fifth column that need to be dealt with.Hizeb is not disarming anytime soon,rest assured.

    August 20, 2009

  • Fair and Square

    Syria never issued a letter stating clearly that the farms are lebanese. Letter 32874/432949164 offended does sate that israel failed to withdraw from south lebanon, but what do you accept when all lebanese maps are in syria? that we have not demarcated the border b/w us and a "driend" prior to doing so with an enemy. the united nations clearly asked syria for mapping credentials and a written statement by the governing syrians that the farms are lebanese. As of yet the syrians have refused to do so. Why? if the farms are returned, that takes away an excuse for HA to be armed.

    August 20, 2009

  • Sami

    Why does the picture's identification claim that the Shebaa farms are "disputed territories"?Syria says it is Lebanese,Lebanon says it is Lebanese and Israel says it is not Israeli.Who is in dispute with whom over what?

    August 14, 2009

  • George Abi Nader

    Who is Hussain Abdul Hussain and for whom does he work or represent??.Libnan is not a commodity for barter or trade.Israel first of all has to implement all UN-resolutions which have been ignored-stop all violations of these resolutions and above all stop repetitive threats.-Libnan is an Arab Nation and is a part of an overall Arab Plan for"Peace Settlement" even if some Arab Nations broke rank and made" seperate peace"...Last of all Libnan is not in the MOUTASARAFIEH times.

    August 14, 2009

  • Sami

    May 17 agreement was assassinated because it infringed on the Lebanese sovereignty.It stipulated the number of military personnel Lebanon is "allowed" by Israel to have in its OWN land(the South).The Egyptians are also restricted as to the number of military personnel allowed in Sinai according to the Camp David agreement.This is a shame for any country to allow other countries to dictate the terms of it own sovereignty over its own territories.

    August 14, 2009

  • Tahsin

    Apparently , the writer is not aware of some small but crucial points such as that the historic, sects as well as the political structure make it f=very difficult for small country such as Lebanon to take a decision apart of the approval of the regional power. Thus, although 14 March raised up some slogans but there were not in a position to do something without pre-authorization from KSA for example therfore, they didn't go that far. The other example is about the agreement of May 17 whereby the agreement was killed because it didn't have the regional support at the time. Lebanon is independent but it still the young brother therefore it has always to coordinate in big matters such as the Israeli issue

    August 13, 2009

  • Offended March 14 supporter

    The reality is that we are not in a position to negotiate among ourselves, better yet, with anyone else. In the Arab word as a whole we, the people, have allowed ourselves to reach such lows in terms of levels of education, reliance on U.S. and Western support, and of course the absence of any political or economic reform. As for Lebanon, before we can even think of playing a role in any international or regional arena, we still have to establish a national identity that suits every single citizen of Lebanon. Today, we identify ourselves by the sects and parties we fall under, and follow blindly leaders that have lead us time and time again into countless wars, and have cheaply negotiated on our behalves. Unless we rid ourselves of this tribal mentality and start listening to each other we will never progress...

    August 13, 2009

  • Offended March 14 supporter

    Unless we realize that we are not Egypt, Jordan, or Syria, and we do not need to lower our heads to anyone, whether it be Israel or any other player in the region, we are doomed to yet another civil war. Let us grasp the fact that the Lebanese people are in fact the best-educated population in the region. Let us embrace the fact that, although we were in the mist of a civil war, we were able to hold back 3 key players in the regions on different fronts, Syria, Israel, and the PLO. I ask the Lebanese people this: if we were able to do that when we were divided, can you tell me what we would be capable of if we were united?

    August 13, 2009

  • Offended March 14 supporter

    Any further requests for evidence is an arm twisting game by Israeli diplomacy in an attempt to make Syria budge to its demands. The failure here is not in Syrian compliance, it is in Lebanese diplomacy. Then the writer decides to make his own peace initiative and he writes "Then there are Lebanon’s 400,000 Palestinian refugees. It is understood that 10% of them will be offered the right of return to their villages inside Israel. The rest will be given the right of return to the Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza. All of them will be also given the choice to immigrate to Western countries." "It is understood"? According to who? Who has set forth this initiative?...

    August 13, 2009

  • Offended March 14 supporter

    I would like to refer him to United Nations document number S/2000/1020 titled "Letter dated 24 October 2000 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council". In the letter, Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe writes and I quote "Security and peace in the region are imperilled by Israel’s persistence in ignoring the resolutions of international legitimacy, in particular, Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), its failure to complete its withdrawal from south Lebanon, including the Shab`a farmlands, to the internationally recognized boundaries and its continued occupation of Arab lands seized by force in June 1967." By the standards of international law this is an official recognition of Lebanese sovereignty over the Shib'aa Farms...

    August 13, 2009

  • Offended March 14 supporter

    This article was so offensive to my intelligence that I could not restrict myself from responding to the shear ignorance with which this writer has provided Now Lebanon readers. To begin the writer starts his article by giving our enemy the number one demand that they have been putting on the table since its establishment in 1948 and that is, recognizing that Israel is a "Jewish state". Secondly, he goes as far as to mention a very shameful day in Lebanese history, May 17, 1983, the day our president decided to sign a peace treaty with Israel, while we were under occupation. What he fails to mention is that our parliament abrogated this agreement On March 5, 1984. Furthermore, Syria has repeatedly recognized that the Shibaa Farms are in fact Lebanese, both verbally and in writing...

    August 13, 2009

  • Georges Butros Estaphan

    " Then there are Lebanon’s 400,000 Palestinian refugees. It is understood that 10% of them will be offered the right of return to their villages inside Israel. The rest will be given the right of return to the Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza. All of them will be also given the choice to immigrate to Western countries." If this is correct, then this is very, very big. Of course, nearly all 400,000 would go to the West if they had the choice - everyone would choose to live in a liberal democracy with the rule of law - rather than in the Land of Israel which, while it is superior to most Arab states, will always in law treat Muslim and Christian Arabs as less equal. It is after all, a self-proclaimed state for one ethnic group's benefit. And the West Bank/Gaza will always be under effective Israeli sovereignty, so no one would choose to live there if there was a better alternative choice open i.e. option to go to the Western world. But if this is President Obama's peac

    August 13, 2009

  • Sami

    In any negotiations there must be something that each party has and each one wants to take it away from the other.In the case of HA/Israel negotiations ,HA had the Israeli soldiers and Israel had Kuntar and the others.One was exchanged for the other. In Shibaa's case,there is nothing to negotiate,Israel took the land and Lebanon wants it unconditionally.As far as the Palestinian refugees are concerned,Lebanon cannot negotiate for their return nor for their fate,they only can.

    August 13, 2009

  • nour

    Given that the 400,000 Palestinian refugees are a key issue in peace talks between Lebanon and Israel, ANY Lebanese government's role in settling the issue depends primarily on the possibility of an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza. Lebanon's role will therefore remain peripheral until the Israelis and Palestinians figure it out. We have seen with Egypt and Jordan that peace agreements do not solve the problem, unless we reduce the problem from being that of the Palestinians' right of return and statehood to individual countries' security. I am Lebanese and do want Lebanon to stop fighting a war that isn't its own but my conscience constantly reminds me that the true issue to be settled is not Lebanon but Palestine. In the meantime, of course, I advocate extending full rights to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon so that they may live respectable lives. This of course requires a strong economy, which should be our top priority.

    August 12, 2009

  • Offended March 14 supporter

    This article was so offensive to my intelligence that I could not restrict myself from responding to the shear ignorance with which this writer has provided Now Lebanon readers. To begin the writer starts his article by giving our enemy the number one demand that they have been putting on the table since its establishment in 1948 and that is, recognizing that Israel is a "Jewish state". Secondly, he goes as far as to mention a very shameful day in Lebanese history, May 17, 1983, the day our president decided to sign a peace treaty with Israel,while we were under occupation. What he fails to mention is that our parliament abrogated this agreement On March 5, 1984. Furthermore, Syria has repeatedly recognized that the Shibaa Farms are in fact Lebanese, both verbally and in writing. I would like to refer him to United Nations document number S/2000/1020 titled "Letter dated 24 October 2000 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations ...

    August 12, 2009

  • worriedlebanese

    Excellent analysis. There's only one point missing, the "security" dimension. It is a dimension that is usually ignored by Beirutis but comes up first when talking to Israelis and people from Southern Lebanon. And this is issue is certainly the murkiest. - Since the 1960s, the Lebanese government has failed to secure its border with Israel. - Since the 1960s, Israel has been "retaliating" after each attack coming from Lebanon. This has brought a lot of destruction, death and distrust in Southern Lebanon. - An armed grouped, Hezbollah, backed by the majority of the local population wants to keep the fight going. Their most popular argument within their constituency is similar to the one of the Israeli army: only military strength will ensure our security and disuade our enemy from attacking us. It's a defensive argument (that is not weaker than that of the Israeli army). - There are other armed groups that are held back by Hezbollah (mostly Palestinian, and Sunni islamists)

    August 12, 2009

  • No to the zionist state

    Wow, i can't believe we still have people that are so ignorant to believe the Obama adminstration will make a positive change when the same people that controlled the Bush regime are controlling the Obama regime. Those who think there will be peace with israel in the middle east are living in a la la land. There will never be peace, how could it be when israel is built on 80 percent of Palestine with the help of the colonializers that planted it there for a purpose which they will never give up. Stop dreaming please. Yes everyone should be shy to talk about peace with the zionist state as those that have so called peace with it are living under dictatorship without freedom, democracy or the right to an opinion. Look at Egypt, 2 billion in aid annualy yet they cant even feed their own population as all the aid money go to the corrupted politicians, their media and the security which is there to protect israel from the egyptians, their gas is given away freely to teh zionists

    August 12, 2009

  • Aysha

    Finally someone states the bleeding obvious. Well said.

    August 12, 2009

  • ELie

    It is inconceivable for Lebanon to sign a peace treaty with Israel, without Arab participation and the resolution of the Arab-Israeli confilct. It is naive to think that a Lebanon can negociate on his own. The steps Hussein is proposing do not have any benefit to Lebanon, but will benefit Israel as the Middle-Eastern powers will plunge Lebanon into war and Israel will work to solve the Palestinian cause at Lebanon's expense. What is beneficial to Lebanon is to solve its own internal problems first, strengthen the LAF to protect ALL of its territories, have ONE army and a strong democratic government, and work on bringing prosperity to Lebanon. It is better for the Lebanese to invest the resources they receive into sustained business opportunities for the benefit of the people and NOT In WAR.

    August 12, 2009

  • razouk

    Wow, I never knew about this deal before: " Then there are Lebanon’s 400,000 Palestinian refugees. It is understood that 10% of them will be offered the right of return to their villages inside Israel. The rest will be given the right of return to the Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza. All of them will be also given the choice to immigrate to Western countries." Can you please refer to the original agreement stipulating this deal?

    August 12, 2009