The echoes of the war in Lebanon had not died yet, a war costing the lives of over a thousand people, and damages estimated in the billions. The war was triggered by Hezbollah shelling of Israel, and the cross-border attack into Israel, killing 3 soldiers and kidnapping two more. And so, I ask, what is it that Hezbollah really want? Why won’t they disarm, remaining as a political party, rather than keeping the paramilitary sect?
From what I gather, Hezbollah present three goals for its operations:
A resistance force against Israeli aggression.
Release of the Lebanese prisoners held in Israel.
Liberation of the Lebanese lands occupied by Israel.
Here is my analysis of these claims:
Hezbollah as a resistance force against Israeli aggression
Hezbollah was one of the factors leading to Israel withdrawal from S. Lebanon in 2000. In the recent conflict, the Lebanese army did not operate, and Hezbollah was the sole defender of Lebanon against Israel. So, surely this goal is valid, right?
It may have been a valid point prior to the 2000 withdrawal. As things stand today, Israel has no claim to Lebanon territory, nor any reason to engage in hostilities in that region. That is, off course, without accounting for Hezbollah. If Hezbollah would not have attacked Israel, this whole war would not have even started.
It seems, then, that Hezbollah is working as a resistance force against Israeli “aggression” caused by Hezbollah’s own actions. :dubious: Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies…
Release of the Lebanese prisoners held in Israel
OK, so maybe the resistance force argument is a little week. But you must admit the prisoners goal is valid, and indeed a noble one. No reason to hold on to prisoners, after the hostilities were finished, right?
Well, at least partially wrong. I do not have a full list of all the Lebanese prisoners held in Israel, and the reason they are being held. It is possible that some of them should be released. However, one name keeps popping up when discussing prisoners: that of Samir Kuntar (other spelling versions exist). Here is an excerpt from an Interview with Hezbollah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah, by Al-Jazeera Beirut Bureau Chief Ghassan Bin-Jiddu, on 20 July 2006:
Bolding mine. Also, more cites upon request.
So, why is this Samir Kuntar the prisoners’ symbol? He is the Lebanese prisoner held longest it Israeli prison (since 1979). “Well,” one may say, “after 27 years in prison, surly this man should be released, right?”
Let’s take a look at Mr. Kuntar’s activities, and the reason he is in prison.
Here is a more personal presentation of this attack, from Smadar Haran, the sole survivor of the Haran family:
This is the beast of a man Hezbollah is putting forward as a symbol of the Lebanese prisoners. Should he be released, I ask you?
Liberation of the Lebanese lands occupied by Israel
Well, if nothing else, surly it’s legit to strive for liberation of your people’s occupied lands. So Hezbollah is just at the very least in this, right?
This, too, might have been a valid argument back in the times of the Israeli occupation of S. Lebanon. But now?
Even the UN (not a warm supporter of Israel) approved the Israeli withdrawal was full, to the international lines.
But the Hezbollah does not care. They want more.
Many people heard about the Shebba farms. This piece of land (that has no strategic value) is in fact Syrian. Everyone (except Hezbollah, that is) agrees this is so. However, some may say, as this land is surly not Israeli, and hold limited value, maybe, for peace sake, it should be consented and given to Lebanon. Right?
Would Hezbollah accept the Shebba farms, and disarm? C’mon, give them some credit. They have already started advocating further land disputes – you know, just in case Israel will hand the farms over. Nasrallah frequently argues in his speeches that Israel is occupying additional Lebanese territory beyond Shebba: the so-called “7 lost villages”.
What are the 7 lost villages, you ask?
These are seven Shi’ite villages just south of the international border that were abandoned in 1948, and whose original residents and their descendants live in Lebanon. Only the return of these villages, i.e., only Israeli agreement to move its UN-approved international border with Lebanon two or three kilometers south and (near Kiryat Shmonah) east, argues Nasrallah, can pave the way for the conclusion of Hizballah’s armed struggle.
Here is from an Interview with Nassrallah. Conducted by Antoine K. Kehdy, February 2, 2000.
here is a description of the villages from Global Policy Forum:
A fuller description was offered by an Ha’Aretz reporter. This report is no longer available, but I managed to find a Google cached version
Also, from Peace Now’s site:
Now, let’s just assume for a moment that Hezbollah will get these villages as well (and trust me: they won’t. It’s a total non-starter.). Would that be enough? Off course not. You see, there were actually 20 villages. Seven were Shiite, so they are presented first, but the other 13 villages wait their turn. And if these were to be “returned” Hezbollah would undoubtedly “discover” yet another village that was considered Lebanese in the 1700’s, or maybe an industrial park where Lebanese used to work, or a patch of land upon which Lebanese used to picnic, or… you get the drift.
These are all speculations, so I could be wrong, right?
One final time: Wrong!
I guess it’s time to reveal the answer to the question: What does Hezbollah really want from Israel? The answer is simple: A complete destruction. Nothing less would be accepted.
My conclusion: Hezbollah real goal is the eradication of Israel. Anything else presented is only pretence, a tactical move toward that goal. Any concessions made will only serve to increase their power, not to promote peace. Hence, no concessions should be made. The sole demand should be for Hezbollah to disarm immediately, and unconditionally. That is the only prospect for peace.
Very good OP…well laid out and with good info in there. For the most part I’m in agreement of your assessment, of Hezbollah’s stated goals, why they are mostly bullshit, and of course what they are really after. Hopefully someone will come in and actually engage in the debate…I’m not holding my breath though.
One thing I’ll say is that I think Hezbollah’s actual goals aren’t the elimination of Israel, per se. I know that you stated you felt they were, and I’m confident they wouldn’t shed many tears over Israel’s destruction…and also said destruction may be an incidental (i.e. it may be something they are doing as part of their over all plan), but I don’t think its their primary goal. I THINK that their main goal is to become a power…just like AQ wants to become a power, Hamas wants to become a power, and to a greater extent Iran want to be come THE power…in the region. I think Israel gives them a convient excuse, a unifying goal between the various Islamic factions, something to show that they ARE a power by giving them something to fight and attack.
I think Hezbollah wants to leverage their heroic ( :rolleyes: ) struggle against Israel into real power. Oh, certainly Iran (and to a lesser degree Syria) thinks Hezbollah is their tool, a club to use against Israel and also a nudge nudge, wink wink that Iran is innocent of such things, while everyone knows who is pulling the puppet strings there. I.E. its a way for Iran and Syria to accrue more prestige (power) with little risk to themselves.
But I think Hezbollah ALSO has ideas of becoming a power unto themselves. Just my impression from some of the stuff I’ve read in the past.
Anyway, just some of my jumbled thoughts on the subject. I’m working atm (or should be :)), so I don’t have time to really make anthing more coherent atm…besides, you pretty much hit all the points I always make in these things anyway.
True. As I said, some of their goals could be justified before Israel withdrawal in 2000.
It may be worth reminding that Israel invaded Lebanon the first time because (Ta-da!) it was a de-facto Patah-Land, help by the PLO, and used for shelling Israeli cities and villages.
I have already addressed it in my OP. In short: if Lebanon would not attack Israel, Israel would be more than happy to keep a peaceful border. No buffer zone is needed unless you intend hostilities.
Maybe. Got a list of names + reasons for being in prison? Because I’m not the one placing Samir Kuntar’s name at the front – they are.
Hezbollah didn’t exist before Israel invaded Lebanon. But the PLO did. You seem to be using the same definition of ‘Israeli aggression’ that Hezbollah used in the recent dust up as well. Appearently ‘Israeli aggression’=Attacking Israel then being all confused when Israel responds. The nerve of them! From Wiki:
Notice a pattern? Before it was the PLO opperating in Lebanon and attacking Israel, prompting an Israeli response. Recently it was Hezbollah, operating in Southern Lebanon and attacking Israel, prompting an Israeli response. I’m dectecting a theme here…
The irony of Hezbollah (or Lebanon) thinking they need a buffer zone from that mean, aggressive Israel is appearently lost on you…
Why exactly should they? Oh, thats right…‘Israeli aggression’, meaning these guys were caught attacking Israel and so should be let free. Only fair, after all, they were attacking Israel and all. Israel MUST have been at fault. And turning these guys loose would probably solve all the friction between Israel and, er…well, everyone else in the region. I’m sure of it! Turn em loose and they will go out and become productive Lebanese citizens, living in goodness and light from here on out. Aggressive or hostile thoughts will be the last thing they will have toward Israel from here on out. To be sure…
To elaborate on the subject of the Lebanese prisoners: I have made a little googling, starting with Samir Kunter as a pivot.
It appears that the Lebanese prisoners are in fact … Samir Kunter:
But I did not give up. Surely, Hezbollah would not lie. There is no way the will call Kuntar “prisoners” rather than “prisoner”. And my work had been fruitful. Here’s from Nasrallah’s speech on July 12, 2006.
Not much is available on the web WRT the three other alleged prisoners. Most sites give the same basic information, but without giving sources. I did find an article from the independent (which I hope I a bit more reliable here). As it’s a subscription site, here’s a copy of the same article.
Well, according to Puzzler, these guys don’t even exist. According to Puzzler there aren’t any Lebanese freedom fighters in Israeli prisons so I guess the point is moot. I’m a bit shocked that this is all about 4 prisoners but…
There are really several intertwined explanations of this war.
The first one you can find here . It claims that Hezbollah attacked and escalated the conflict in an attempt to serve its Iranian and Syrian masters. The Iranian nuclear file was going to the UNSC, the UN committee investigating the Hariri murder was about to drop the Syrians in the shit, Hamas’s Meshal faction was in trouble after capturing Shalit (Meshal resides in Damascus and is very close to Iran), so Hezbollah was used to create a diversion. Plus, the weakening of the state’s hold in Lebanon would be to Hezbollah’s advantage, since it could then continue to carry its guns without the Lebanese being able to do much to force it to disarm. There are a number of internal Lebanese reasons for Hezbollah starting this war, most importantly, that the Lebanese had been demanding that Hezbollah lay down its arms and change into a purely political army. By creating a war with Israel, as you said, it could then turn around and say ‘our guns are still needed’.
The second perspective you can find here . (PDF file)The author is Amal Saad Ghorayeb. She’s Lebanese, has extensive knowledge of Hezbollah, and wrote a piece for the Carnegie Endowment. Her main findings were:
• Hizbollah’s July 12 attack on an Israeli convoy was intended to provoke a prisoner exchange; it was not an Iranian-directed effort to trigger a wider conflict.
• Although prepared for it, Hizbollah did not expect a massive Israeli counter-strike.
• Hizbollah perceives Washington as the engineer of Israel’s current offensive and now views itself as in direct confrontation with the overall U.S. agenda for the region.
• Hizbollah aims to compromise the perception of Israeli military supremacy in the region, with the hope of undermining the stability of Israel itself.
Hezbelloh does not want Israel gone. Hezbelloh needs Israel, just as any wannabe totalitarian needs (as Orwell would put it) their Goldberg.
Hezbollah is part of a reactionary movement against modernity and secularism, a movement towards insularity in which an Islamic theocracy is dominant. Israel is a means to that end, but not the end itself. Its goal is not the destruction of Israel but the continued demonization of Israel as the dreaded other that drives the fear that keeps them in a position of power.
Prisoners are irrelevant. Land is irrelevant. The plight of the people at the hands of Jews or at the hands or Arabs is irrelevant. Other than as means to the goal of driving the people away from integration into the world’s commuity of communities, that is.
Now that you mention it, DSeid, I’ve been wondering what their real campaign line is, other than “Get rid of Israel!” Sure, that’s a nice soundbite if you’re into the hate Israel crowd, but other than that, what is the rest of their plan. Do they have any proposals on how they’re going to govern the newly “liberated” territory?
Since it’s practically impossible to factually answer your question (cites and all), I’ll give you my opinion. I believe that the real reason(s) from your list is (2) with some (1) thrown in. (3) is irrelevant. I’ll explain.
(1) Iranian influence
Hezbollah has obvious ties to Iran. The Shiite religious leadership is in Iran, and Hezbollah follows the version of Islamic ideology developed by Ayatollah Khomeini. In addition, Iran supports Hezbollah by supplying them with funding and weapons.
However, I don’t believe Hezbollah consider themselves to be puppets, even if Iran does. Hezbollah has, IMO, agenda of its own, that in general coincide with Iran’s, so it’s their interest to maintain good relations with Iran. I also think Hezbollah could not have initiated the attack without Iran’s consent, so the date may well have been coordinated with Iran. But I see no reason to believe it was not Hezbollah’s initiative.
(2) Hezbollah’s agenda
I pretty much agree with Ms. Ghorayeb. I think Hezbollah’s aim was to free Samir Kuntar, so that they will be portrayed as heroes in the Arab world, hence boosting their status. As it’s in human nature to assume that history repeats itself, they probably assumed Israel will employ limited reaction, as it had done on previous occasions. Hence, I believe they were indeed surprised. And, as they “won the war” (by merit of not being eliminated,) they will undoubtedly use that to try and promote their vision as heroes versus the weak Israeli army (portraying Israel as weak - cobwebs society - had been a repeated theme in Nasrallah’s speeches). WRT Hezbollah - USA relations, I don’t think they were best before, so I don’t think much has changed.
From the article you linked to, I don’t see your conclusions. It says that Israel had drawer plans for this war (I’d be worried otherwise), that they were coordinated with the USA (good), and that Washington thought it may serve as a test case for Iran (irrelevant WRT Israel’s policy). Current and former Israeli officials stated that Israel follows its own interests, not USA’s. Some unnamed people give their opinion that Israel was waiting for a provocation in order to initiate war; I’m not convinced.
The post-war newspapers in Israel were full of description of the standing Israeli policy before the war. That policy, termed “containment” simply states “Let Hezbollah arm, but hope they won’t use the weapons until they rust”. Stupid? Definitely (doubly so in retrospect). War-hungry? Hardly. Dseid,
What you say makes perfect sense. Which means Nasrallah may even consent to allow Israel to survive “in a small village in Palestin” (his words) to leave an outlet for hatred.
The three original goals of Hezbollah were the eradication of Western Imperialism in Lebanon, the transformation of Lebanon’s multi-confessional state into a Islamic state, and the complete destruction of the state of Israel (from WP on Hezbollah). However, the part about Islamic republic was apparently removed later. So, AFAIK, no real operative plans for the “liberated territories”.
OTOH I must say they seem to make a rather good job in their de-facto state in S. Lebanon. So, at least while they have steady cash flowing from Iran, they would probably manage.
The real cause of the Hezbollah-Israel spat was the withdrawel of Syrians.
The Israelis did not like being in Lebanon, about six relatively peaceful years followed their withdrawel, with Syria filling the vacuum - then ‘world opinion’ kicks them out and Hezzbollah goes ballistic :-}
I am not at all convinced that Syria is a willing partner in the whole Iran/Hamas/Hezbollah mess - my take is that they are scared sh/tless of the lot, and their own juvenile population.
Reverting to the real subject:
I have been pondering why Hamas and Hezbollah are pretty efficient at setting up a social support network, and suspect that their Iranian paymasters would not be very impressed if they hoiked the loot off to Switzerland or the Caymans.
If you control the money pump, then you can divert it to sensible things like personal bank accounts, but if you are beholden to others, then at least, you need to make a show of value for money.
Puzzler - you forgot the second crew who went after the first