Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is Israel About To Win What It Has Always Been Denied Before?

Since the re-establishment of the state of Israel, military victories were stripped of the diplomatic victory and recognition that normally come with being the victor.

Michael Oren, senior fellow at the Shalem Center, an academic research institute in Jerusalem, runs down the list:
In its 1948 War of Independence, Israel defeated six Arab armies and yet at the end of the fighting merely achieved armistice agreements that denied it recognition and perpetuated the state of war.

In 1956, the Israel Defense Forces vanquished Egypt's Soviet-supplied army, but was then forced to evacuate Sinai and Gaza.

Israel's unqualified victory in the 1967 Six Day War produced United Nations Resolution 242, which, contrary to conventional belief, does not explicitly require Arab rulers to recognize the Jewish state even in return for territory.

Israeli forces rebounded from initial setbacks in the 1973 Yom Kippur War to rout the Egyptian and Syrian armies only to receive U.N. Resolution 338, a reiteration of 242. When, in 1982, Israel drove the PLO out of Lebanon, the Reagan administration responded with a plan for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel quelled two Palestinian insurgencies but ended up retreating from Gaza and acceding to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israel's inability to make military capital yield diplomatic dividends reflected the international community's reluctance to jeopardize its relationship with the Arab world and imperil its access to oil. Indeed, much of the world felt compelled to compensate the Arabs for their every defeat by qualifying, if not vitiating, Israel's diplomatic gains. This did not, however, prevent Western governments from tacitly applauding Israel for protecting moderate Middle Eastern regimes from Nasserists, Baathists and Islamists.
But this time, things could be different. In the past, the West did not want to risk its relationship to the Arab countries and access to their oil. Each time the Arabs were defeated by Israel, they were compensated by forcing Israel to return territory won in defensive battles. Israel developed into a power that could defend its interests alone. This time is different, says Oren.
Clearly, the United States and its allies can no longer rely on Israel alone to check the Iranian threat. Realizing that, the Security Council is poised to adopt a resolution laying the groundwork for the U.N.'s first-ever armed intervention in the Middle East. In contrast to the toothless peacekeeping missions that have impotently watched -- and sometimes inflamed -- Arab-Israeli borders, the proposed mandated force can expel all terrorist elements from the area between the border and the Litani, and enforce "an international embargo on the sale and supply of arms" to Hezbollah.

At the same time, Israel will receive the "unconditional release" of its kidnapped soldiers while, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, reserving the right to "self-defense if an armed attack occurs." An incomplete military victory promises to produce an unprecedented diplomatic achievement for Israel and a new multinational machinery for confronting terror. [emphasis added]
Over at The Corner, Rich Lowry sees a similar potential for an unprecedented Israeli diplomatic victory in the absence of a military victory--and he has company.
One fascinating aspect of the current conflict is that, for the first time in history, it is an Arab force that has the upper hand military, and a U.N. resolution contemplates disadvantaging it anyway. It has always been the other way around. This occured to me when I saw this bit in the New York Times today:

"Arab analysts and diplomats in the Middle East were skeptical about the resolution having any chance of halting the fighting. 'They are attempting to gain diplomatically what they failed to achieve militarily,' said one diplomat with long experience in the Middle East. 'I expect the cease-fire to be rammed through, but it will turn into a war of attrition.' "

This report in the Arab press gets at the same thing:

"According to the Lebanese government and the Arab League, the point is that the US-French draft, if voted, would practically substitute a non-existent military victory of Israel with a Security Council decision which, discharging the request of amendment by the Lebanese government, would practically ascribe defeat to Lebanon in the absence of an Israeli victory by casting the Israeli military goals into the form of a UN Resolution."

Oren says this victory for Israel depends on the language of the cease-fire remaining undiluted. Of course, this also depends on Hezbollah actually accepting its terms. If the cease-fire really is the diplomatic victory Oren and Lowry say it is--that is unlikely. On the other hand, in an analysis of the cease-fire, Dore points out there are elements of it that do go Hezbollah's way, such as agreeing that the status of Shebaa Farms is a genuine dispute. But Hezbollah needs a clear victory just as much as Israel does.

That is Lowry's thinking too, who does not see Hezbollah agreeing to the cease-fire:
Why would it? It's had a pretty good war, then it's supposed to turn around and disarm and leave southern Lebanon?
Why not?
Israel's been doing that for over 50 years.

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