Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 August 2006
Issue No. 808
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

In Focus:

Galal Nassar

From war to politics

Having failed by force, the US and Israel will now attempt to pursue their aims by other means, writes Galal Nassar

Since the beginning of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon I have been thinking about the motives that lie behind it. Now that the guns have fallen silent it would seem that the entire campaign had three agendas: the implementation of Resolution 1559; the furthering of Olmert's plans for Israel's final borders by 2010, and the attempt to impose Washington's new Middle East.

Fixing final borders is something Israel's leaders have always made a point of avoiding until Olmert abled his plan. Israel always talked of safe and recognised borders, and always stopped short of specifying those borders. The more extremist Zionists, when addressing the issue, would recall the old Zionist slogan "from the Nile to the Euphrates". Ambiguity over borders has always put Zionist leaders in an uncomfortable position, and more so now than at any time before.

The new Middle East project calls on the Zionist entity to assume a leading role in this part of the world, a role that is not just military but political and economic. Israel will have to normalise its relations with Arab countries, establish diplomatic relations and infiltrate their economies for the new Middle East to become a reality.

The future is all about the implementation of Zionist hegemony in this region. Now that Israel has been defeated in Lebanon it will have to shift its attention from military exploits to political and economic conquest. It will have to embrace Washington's geopolitical vision which calls for Israel to police the region from Pakistan to Morocco and from Turkey to Uganda. Israel will be expected to deter any state that rejects the new project.

Olmert's plan has two objectives. It aims to end the embarrassment caused by Israel's lack of specific borders as well as to pave the way for the so-called new Middle East. If implemented, the Arab order that has been in place since the end of World War II, and which is embodied in the Arab League, will be supplanted. In the new Middle East the concepts and vocabulary that defined the identity of Arabs in their struggle for liberation from Western colonialism will be jettisoned. Dramatic changes will take place involving political, social and economic reform. The new Middle East will presumably be more receptive to technology and democracy, to good governance and economic opportunities. So far so good, but there is more to the new Middle East than meets the eye. A lot of integration will be attempted, and all with Arab states playing second fiddle to Israel, the US and their allies.

Olmert's plan is a culmination of old Zionist expansionist designs. The plan mentions safe borders, but these will be safe only for Israel, not its Arab neighbours. Israel's vision of security will only be fulfilled once it carves off strategic chunks of neighbouring Arab states -- Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza and perhaps Jordan.

Information about several aspects of Olmert's plan remains sketchy but what we know so far suggests that Arab national security will be seriously compromised. Israel wants to seize strategic areas from its neighbours.

On 25 May The Jerusalem Post reported that, during his recent meeting with President Bush, Olmert said Israel needed to specify lines that will ensure its security until acceptable terms for ending the conflict are reached. According to Menachem Klein of MIT, Olmert's plan on the Palestinian front calls for the creation of three lines that will involve a redeployment of Israeli troops and determine security zones that have to be dealt with. Israel intends to station its troops in parts of the West Bank as well as along the 4 June 1967 borders. In short, Olmert wants Israeli troops to control the Jordan Valley and use it as a security belt. Israel will end up having three border lines: the separation wall, behind which Israeli troops but no settlers will be allowed; the line separating the Palestinians from the Jordan Valley; and a border running along the Jordan River. In addition to this there will be secondary security lines linking the Jordan Valley with major Jewish settlements.

Jerusalem will remain united. In other words Israel is not going to dismantle its settlement constellations but expand them so as to engineer total separation from the great majority of the Palestinians. As for the Jordan Valley, Olmert says, "Jordan should remain a security border of Israel".

The Israeli prime minister is assuming that the international community will acquiesce on this point. As for the relation between the West Bank and Gaza, Olmert intends to keep the areas separate. The borders of the Gaza Strip would turn into international borders with all the electrical and water links that exist today completely severed. He says that the Palestinians will be given enough time to put their house in order. Olmert adds that his plan has the full support of the US administration "and an international community that understands our situation".

The West Bank would be turned into three isolated cantons with the separation wall running across it like a writhing serpent, offering protection to settlements but turning the Palestinians' life into a living hell. The cantons and separate pockets given to the Palestinians will be connected by a set of tunnels, bridges and corridors all controlled by the Israelis.

The area left to the Palestinians would shrink from the 56 per cent of the West Bank offered by Ehud Barak to 44 per cent. Israel intends to create Palestinian satellites that will have no option but to join in a union with Jordan. Jordan would then be expected to police its borders with the usurping entity.

As for Syria, Olmert plans to dust off the 1981 Knesset decision to annex the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights are an integral part of the Olmert plan, never mind that the UN Security Council condemned the annexation, judged it a violation of international law, called on Israel to reverse it and urged the international community to refrain from recognising it. Yet Olmert hopes to achieve his objectives with international, and perhaps local, blessing. Whoever controls the Golan Heights can bombard Damascus with ease. This is the kind of border that Israel deems safe.

Despite Resolution 1701, which calls for Israel's withdrawal, Israel is still hoping to deploy its troops all the way to the Litani River. Israel believes that its real border with Lebanon should be the Litani, just as it sees the River Jordan as its perfect eastern boundary. Israel will try, with US backing, to find an excuse to reach the Litani in the future. Israel talks a lot about helping the Lebanese state impose its control over all of Lebanon, but what it really wants is to disarm the Lebanese resistance and then drown Lebanon in the inferno of civil war.

The Lebanese leaders must understand that the political battle ahead will be fiercer than the military battle the Lebanese resistance has just fought. Lebanon must think of its independence and sovereignty. It must also keep in mind that Israel and the US want to achieve through politics what they have been unable to achieve through war. So let us all keep this in mind. Our passage from defeat to pride must not take us all the way to the other bank of the river. We must not submit to Olmert's plan and the new Middle East, for to do so would betray the honourable blood that has been shed and the sacrifices Lebanon -- all of Lebanon -- has made in the course of the recent barbaric onslaught.

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