Rustom Ghazali, Syria's former Military Intelligence Chief in Lebanon, has died in Damascus

The Daily Star (Lebanon) published an interesting compilation, here, on the reports of the cause of Rustom Ghazali’s death, announced this morning.

The Daily Star noted that “reports conflicted over his cause of death, and when and where he died. The news comes nearly two months after he was reported to have been badly beaten by Syrian security forces”.

In 2002, Ghazali became head of Syrian Military Intelligence, replacing General Ghazi Kanaan [who is said to have committed suicide, an explanation at odds with the circumstances, including the number of shots to his head].

As The Daily Star put it, “Ghazaleh succeeded Ghazi Kanaan as head of military intelligence in Lebanon in 2002 during Syria’s tutelage over Lebanon, which lasted until Damascus pulled its troops from the country in 2005. It is widely speculated that he was one of the men who orchestrated the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus denies any involvement in the 2005 killing”.

In 2012, The Daily Star wrote today, “Ghazaleh was appointed the chief of Syria’s infamous political security branch”.

According to an AFP report cited by The Daily Star, a “family source” said that Ghazaleh “had been fired after getting into a fight with another Syrian official in early March”.

Comments from Twitter —

Continue reading Rustom Ghazali, Syria's former Military Intelligence Chief in Lebanon, has died in Damascus

Lebanon complains to UN about Israel's maritime claims

Here, as published today in Haaretz, is the Israeli claim to an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Eastern Mediterranean — in an area that seems to be rich with newly-discovered undersea gas deposits [the two lighter blue zones, marked Leviathon and Tamar, are the two  announced by Israel over the past two years or so]:

graphic on Haaretz of Israel's maritime claimsIt’s hard to tell without more references, but it looks as though the line drawn as Israel’s “Northern Maritime Border” does not go straight out from the coast at a 90 degree perpendicular to the coast — instead, the line shown here seems to go north…

A report by the German News Agency DPA published in Haaretz reports that “Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansor, in a letter sent Monday to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, rejected Israeli claims of the northern part of the waters between the two countries. ‘The Israeli claim infringes on Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic (sea) Zone’, a zone that gives a country the right to explore its maritime resources. ‘This is a clear violation of Lebanon’s rights… over an area of some 860 square kilometers, and puts international peace and security at risk’, it said”. This is published here.

As Haaretz reports, “Over the past two years, Israel has discovered two fields thought to contain about 24 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. The discoveries could be enough to make Israel energy self-sufficient for decades”, while “Norway-based Petroleum Geo-Services this year announced it had explored Lebanese waters which contained “valuable information” on potential offshore gas reserves”. Meanwhile, Lebanon and Israel have not ended the state of war that has existed since 1948, and do not speak directly to each other, or have diplomatic relations.

So, they have each asserted their claims in the media — and now at the UN [through the Secretary-General and his special representative…]

UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

The UN Secretary-General’s new report raises more questions than answers about two protests that turned deadly in the Golan Heights in the past month in which people who the UN report identified as “civilians”, and “largely young unarmed Palestinians” overran Syrian, UN, and Israeli lines — in an attempt to enter an area under Israeli control.

The UN said it still did not know the exact casualty toll. The report said that the two demonstrations “resulted in an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties and put the long-held ceasefire in jeopardy”.

The statement about the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire being in jeopardy is a surprise: there are no reports of any Syrian responses to the Israeli firing on the demonstrators.

The report was prepared, as it usually is, by the UNSG in connection with the imminent renewal of the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights later this month.   The UN has decided to ask for a regular six-month renewal, as has happened since 1974, and a threat to the cease-fire would be a good justification for renewal.

The report does not say that Syrian forces were in any way responsible for the organizing the protests, though it does note several times that the Syrian forces were present.

On May 15, it said, “A total of 44 civilian casualties, including four fatalities from IDF fire, were reported, but UNDOF has not been able to confirm these numbers”. In the second demonstration, it said, “Although UNDOF could not confirm the number of casualties during the 5 June events, up to 23 persons have been reported killed and many more wounded”.

The report said that it was still investigating an “incident” in which two civilians “entered Majdal Chams and demonstrated in the town centre” during the May 15 protest — and were detained by the IDF. They were returned two days later, on 17 May, “by the IDF through UNDOF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Syrian authorities”. According to the UN report, “UNDOF is investigating the incident and both parties have agreed in principle to cooperate with UNDOF’s investigation”.

It also said it was still investigating an apparent attack by protestors, during the June 5 protest, on an UNDOF position. Stones were thrown at a UNDOF commander trying to calm the situation, several protesters climbed the walls and entered the UNDOF facility and some UNDOF military police were evacuated for their own protection.

Continue reading UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

Sabra + Shatila massacre – 28 years ago today

It was, indeed, “one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century” …

Franklin Lamb wrote in an article published in The Daily Star [Lebanon] yesterday that “The untreated psychic wounds are still open. Accountability, justice and basic civil rights for the survivors are still denied”.

Lamb writes in that article, and in an earlier one we reported on yesterday here, that the massacre in the refugee camp took place from 16 to 18 September, 1982.

But, he says in both of these pieces that there is evidence of a continuing massacre of camp residents the next day, on 19 September, which took place in the Cite Sportive, where people who had been rounded up from inside the camp had been transported.

According to Lamb, a number of journalists “concur that more slaughter was done during the 24 hour period after 8 am Saturday [18 September], the hour the Israeli Kahan Commission, which declined to interview any Palestinians, ruled that the Israelis had stopped all the killing”. This Daily Star article is posted here.

The slaughter of unarmed Palestinian (and some Lebanese) residents of the refugee camp is blamed on the Lebanese Forces.

Israeli Army officers were stationed on rooftops overlooking the camp. The Israeli forces are accused of assisting their then-allies, the Lebanese Forces, by cordoning off the camp — and of not intervening to stop what some of them saw — and heard — was happening inside the camp 28 years ago this weekend.

Israel’s then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had raced his troops north to encircle the Lebanese capital in order to end, after a nearly two-month siege, what was called a “Palestinian state-within-a-state” led by the late Yasser Arafat, who had finally agreed to be evacuated with all his fighters by sea, “under a UN umbrella”, some two weeks before the massacre.

The Palestinian refugee camps were left utterly defenseless.

An Israeli commission of inquiry found that Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for inaction during the massacre. He resigned from his post soon afterwards — but his career in Israeli politics was far from finished [Sharon succeeded Ehud Barak as Israel’s Prime Minister in early 2001].

There was, however, never any UN commission of inquiry, or special tribunal…

Today’s edition of The Daily Star reports on a seminar on the Sabra + Shatila massacre that was held yesterday in the Commodore Hotel in Beirut: “Representatives of several Lebanese and Palestinian groups along with human rights activists convened in a seminar entitled ‘Where Have the Legal Pursuits in the Sabra and Shatila Massacres Reached?‘, that was held in Le Meridian Commodore hotel in Beirut … [Lebanon’s] Information Minister Tarek Mitri, who attended on behalf of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, called for revealing the truth regarding the events during Lebanon’s bloody 1975-90 Civil War ‘but without falling in today’s disputes, a continuation of the past’s wars’. He said the memory could only be cured by ’emphasizing historical reality through legal tools and values … along with confessions and apologies. We are interested today … to stress historical reality with its facts and documented testimonies and renew demands for examining it justly’, the minister added”. This report is posted here.

There was a long and bloody history of sectarian terror and massacres in Lebanon during the period that the Information Minister mentioned. And Palestinians — who had sought refuge in Lebanon from the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948 until the Black September suppression of Palestinian activists by King Hussein in Jordan in 1970 — were involved in some of those horrors. sometimes as victims, and at other times as victimizers.

In all cases, it was called “taking revenge”…

This is the main reason why, at the Camp David talks in late July 2000 hosted by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton (involving Arafat and Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now Israel’s Defense Minister and in complete charge of the West Bank and its 2.8 million Palestinians and some 500,000 Israeli settlers), Arafat and his delegation said that the situation of some 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon should be handled first, as a matter of top priority.

New IDF information offensive against Hizballah

An Associated Press report this morning indicates that the Israeli Defense Forces have launched a new information offensive against Hizballah.

The IDF has taken journalists to the the northern “border” [though there is no agreed border as yet] between Israel and Lebanon, and shown what the IDF claims is evidence that “Hezbollah is moving fighters and weapons into the villages of south Lebanon, building up a secret network of arms warehouses, bunkers and command posts in preparation for war. The Israeli military has begun releasing detailed information about what it calls Hezbollah’s new border deployment, four years after a cross-border raid by its guerrillas triggered a 34-day war … Neither side has signaled that another war is imminent, but the Israelis’ unusual openness about what they claim to know of Hezbollah’s preparations seems to have two goals: to show the reach of their intelligence, and to stake their claim that if another war breaks out and many civilians die, it will be because Hezbollah placed its armaments and fighters in their midst. Israel’s military says Hezbollah has changed strategy since the last war, moving most of its fighters and weapons from wooded rural areas into villages. It says the aim is to avoid detection and use to civilians for cover if war erupts”. This is reported here.

This, as we reported earlier on this blog, is exactly what the spoon-fed Israeli television + other media has been reporting for at least a year, if not more — obviously based on privileged background briefings from the IDF.

Continue reading New IDF information offensive against Hizballah

Meir Javendanfar worries about war, now

After noting that he usually tries “not to get worked up about reports of imminent war in the Middle East”, Iranian-born Israeli analyst Meir Javendanvar has just written, on the Real Clear World website, that “this time I really can’t shake the feeling that something ominous is about to happen, involving Hezbollah.  It will either be a massive confrontation with Israel, or armed conflict inside Lebanon”.

Javendanfar says that “the recent [3 August] border skirmish” — when the IDF insisted on going ahead with a “routine maintenace” tree-trimming operation that left 3 Lebanese Army soldiers, one Lebanese journalist, and one IDF Captain dead, in a firefight that ensued — ” has actually made Hezbollah more popular inside Lebanon”.

It has made Hizballah more popular everywhere in the Arab world.  And Hassan Nasrallah’s speech this past week — which many Western commentators thought offered little new — was regarded as an act of genius by many analysts here in the Palestinian West Bank [including East Jerusalem].

Continue reading Meir Javendanfar worries about war, now

On withholding U.S. aid to the Lebanese Army, now

There is a silly and irritating — and also dangerous — debate going on about cutting off American military aid to the Lebanese Army in the wake of its firefight with IDF forces who insisted on going ahead with “routine maintenance” along the Blue Line separating the two country’s armies, despite advice and strong requests to the contrary.

This “routine maintenance” operation consisted of trimming a tree and/or shrubs in one of the enclaves along the Blue Line — an enclave that Lebanon, at least, says is contested [while Israel claims, bluntly and forcefully, “It’s ours“, and carries out patrolling and other “routine maintenance” operations to “show the flag” and assert its vision of sovereignty.

One could certainly question whether this “routine maintenance” was absolutely essential, on that day, for security reasons [to give the Israeli military a few more seconds advance notice of any potentially-hostile movement there], when Israel maintains a number of satellites in orbit carrying very high-resolution cameras that monitor all activities in the region in what is said to be very impressive detail. [Not to mention Israel’s surveillance of Lebanon — and other parts of the region — by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), see below]

On the very day of the firefight (3 August) a journalist asked the U.S. State Department spokesperson whether or not the Lebanese Army had used any of its U.S-provided material to attack the IDF “tree-trimmers”. [The IDF local commander on the spot was identified and killed by a Lebanese Army sniper, becoming the only Israeli casualty, though he was standing more than half a mile or some 80 meters away. Three Lebanese Army soldiers and one Lebanese journalist were killed in the firefight…]

Nobody [at least, not to my knowledge] has asked if the Israeli soliders were using U.S.-provided equipment.

Since then, momentum has gathered in the U.S. Congress to stop aid to the Lebanese Army.

I was struck by an email I received on Monday (9 August), containing a press release, which informed me that the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee put a hold on future assistance to the Lebanese Army on 2 August — the day before the firefight. The email said that “Congressman Howard L. Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the hold he placed on future U.S. military assistance to Lebanon on August 2nd, 2010: ‘I have been concerned for sometime about reported Hizballah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and its implications for our military assistance program for Lebanon. For that reason, on August 2, I placed a hold on a $100 million dollar security assistance package to the LAF. The incident on the Israel-Lebanon border only one day after my hold was placed simply reinforces the critical need for the United States to conduct an in-depth policy review of its relationship with the Lebanese military. I strongly condemn the unprovoked attacked by the Lebanese Army that resulted in the death of an Israeli officer. Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hizballah influence on the LAF — and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor — I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon”.

I have seen statements by other congressmen boasting of their actions — on 3 August, after the firefight — to support such a hold.

Today, Juan Cole has argued, on his Informed Comment blog, that “Withholding or blocking US military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, however, is a short-sighted policy that will harm US interests in the Middle East and will also have negative implications in the medium to long term for Israel. The allegation, which originates in propaganda offices in Israel, that the Lebanese armed forces have somehow been taken over by or infiltrated by Hizbullah is frankly ridiculous. The most powerful officers are Maronite Christians, and President Michel Sulaiman had been chief of staff before becoming president. Hint: Michel is not a Muslim name. Sulaiman proposed building up the armed forces in response to the border misunderstanding, and all the political factions in Lebanon– Christian, Sunni, Shiite and Druze, praised him for it. Again, this initiative is coming from the Christian leadership. Whether Hizbullah really wants the army of the central government strengthened is not clear, but they could hardly protest the shoring up of a national institution (despite being Shiite fundamentalists, Hizbullah has consistently supported a strong, united Lebanon and is among the foremost purely Lebanese nationalist forces in the country). The silly allegation about Hizbullah and the LAF is a smear, and derives from Tel Aviv’s unease with not being able to have its way with Lebanon at will. In particular, Israeli hawks have long coveted the water resources of south Lebanon, and don’t want a strong Lebanese army and state that would put an end to that expansionist dream … In contrast, if the US helps quietly build up the Lebanese armed forces, at some point they will naturally overshadow Hizbullah. It is not desirable that the army be positioned as anti-Hizbullah nor that it take on the militia militarily. But in the medium term, a strong army would just be able better to assert its prerogatives. And it is better if that army is close to NATO powers, not to Iran … Lebanon’s army collapsed in the mid-1970s in the face of the Civil War. In the 1990s after that war was ended by a new national pact brokered at the Saudi resort city of Taef, the army began being rebuilt. It had a rival in the south of the country in the form of the Hizbullah fundamentalist Shiite militia. The LAF was stunted by the Syrian occupation, which ended in 2005. It was a bystander in the 2006 war, though the Israelis killed some officers and struck at a barracks in Beirut and at facilities as far north as Tripoli (none of these Israeli strikes on the LAF had anything to do with Tel Aviv’s war on Hizbullah. There are no Shiites in Tripoli). Since the Likudniks are saying that the Israeli officer who unfortunately died in last week’s border incident was ‘executed’, one would like to know if the 49 Lebanese officers Israel killed in 2006 were also executed … The main role of the LAF is likely to remain internal. If you want al-Qaeda-type organizations like Fath al-Islam proliferating and Hizbullah becoming unchallenged and a general power vacuum that favors forces of disorder and terrorism, then cut off your nose to spite your face and deprive little Lebanon of its $100 million this year for its military”. This is posted here.

UPDATE: Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr told journalists today that “Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon’s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money”, according to a report by Agence France Presse, here. The AFP story also reported that “An advisor to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has also criticised the US decision” — and said that “support for the army was central to upholding Lebanon’s sovereignty”.

See our earlier posts — before this firefight — reporting on the U.S. State Department’s well-publicized but little-analyzed vaunting of America’s determination to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge [QME] in the region. This year, Israel is getting nearly $3 billion dollars in military assistance [but no civilian aid, according to Bank of Israel head Stanley Fischer], plus a contribution to Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense, and a few other odds and ends here and there…

Meanwhile, Haaretz correspondents Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury have published an analysis today of some of the more interesting statements made by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech on Monday night that riveted much of the region. The Haaretz article says that “In his fifth speech in less than three weeks, Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah tried to blame the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri on Israel. Nasrallah said at a Beirut news conference on Monday evening that Israel had masterminded the murder in order to get Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. He said he was prepared to hand over the proof to an independent inquiry … He also showed a picture of an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle that was ostensibly documenting the surroundings of Hariri’s home in a Beirut suburb and a number of central government institutions in the city. Nasrallah also displayed video clips which he claimed had been filmed by Israeli UAVs that kept an eye on the road leading to Hariri’s brother’s house in Sidon, as well as documentation of Israeli air movements near the Lebanese coast on the day of Hariri’s assassination … Turning to the Israeli naval commando disaster [in 1997], he said that Hezbollah had several times intercepted in real-time pictures broadcast by an UAV to Israel that showed the area of the action. This indicated to the organization that Israel planned to take action there, and therefore Hezbollah set up ambushes there that attacked the commandos. Hezbollah waited for the commandos for several weeks there, he added. This information is not new since it was published in Maariv in 2007 by Amir Rapaport. During the news conference, Nasrallah showed two video clips which he said were connected with the incident. The first was from before the incident – this was supposedly the one from which Hezbollah understood that Israel was planning action there – and the second purportedly showed Israeli fighters boarding a plane on the day of the 1977 naval commando raid. However, there was no documentation of the bombing or the raid itself. Nasrallah added that since then Israel has learned to encrypt UAV broadcasts”… This Haaretz follow-up report can be read in full here.

More on the recent Israeli-Lebanese firefight

lsraeli political and security analyst Shlomo Brom, [Brig-Gen {Res}], of the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, INSS, has just written that: “Underlying this incident is the dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the demarcation of the Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel, as well as Lebanon’s political reality. In its unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Israel withdrew to the Blue Line. This is not the international border agreed upon by Israel and Lebanon, although its route largely coincides with the 1923 international border. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, it fulfilled Security Council Resolution 425 calling on Israel to return to the recognized border between Israel and Lebanon prior to Operation Litani in 1978. This border, which was demarcated in cooperation with the UN, is called the Blue Line. Part of the Blue Line demarcation is accepted by Israel and Lebanon and is marked jointly on the ground, but there are still points of contention between the sides regarding the unmarked sections and how to translate the Blue Line in those locations into territorial markers. There are also places where due to topography the Israeli border fence is not situated on the border itself but within Israeli territory, with small pieces of sovereign Israeli land remaining on the Lebanese side of the fence. [n.b – This analyst is expressing an Israeli view, of course, as he certainly acknowledges.] The Lebanese army has a tendency to view Israeli military activity beyond the fence as an infiltration into Lebanese territory, even if it occurs in these areas. In the August 3 incident, Israeli activity to clear vegetation took place in territory of this category, beyond the fence and in an area with no border marking. The Lebanese claimed after the incident that the route of the Blue Line at this particular point is under dispute“.

Meanwhile, there’s an interesting view on what UNIFIL did as the confrontation began, which I found thanks to a tip from our reader, who comments under the name of Yul. This report on Youtube, shows a couple of “blue-beret” UNIFIL peacekeepers [who later put on blue helmets], one waving a blue UN flag, while one shouts, alternatively, (1) to the IDF to “Stop, Stop doing anything” [the IDF was carrying out “routine-maintenance” tree and shrub-pruning operation on the other side of a fence], and then (2) “Lower your guns”, to the Lebanese Army troops, lying on their bellies with weapons pointed as this IDF “routine-maintenance” proceeds [with heavy military escort]:

Shlomo Brom writes, in his INSS insight analysis, that “The Lebanese government could certainly have protested with more moderation and complained to UNIFIL about what it deemed was an IDF violation, instead of opening fire. However it chose to demonstrate a forceful policy and to instruct Lebanese army units in southern Lebanon accordingly. To be sure, there is a question as to whether there was a specific directive from Beirut to open fire in this particular case, but it is clear that the firm policy from Beirut’s direction played a key role in decisions by the local Lebanese command”.

However, as we have learned from reports published [in identical language] in at least two separate Israeli papers last week, and discussed in comments in an earlier post on this blog, the IDF has decided — since the “Second Lebanon War” in 2006 — to implement a forceful policy by “showing the flag” on a near-daily basis in enclaves along the Blue Line, in order to demonstrate Israeli claims to sovereignty.

So, it should be noted that while the IDF has been showing its muscle for several years, the Lebanese Army engaged the IDF for the first time ever, last week…

Shlomo Brom writes that “It seems the main reason for this policy is the political need for the Lebanese army to demonstrate that it – and not Hizbollah – is the defender of Lebanese sovereignty. In the game of internal Lebanese politics, Hizbollah justifies its military force as being Lebanon’s defender. Thus Hizbollah rushed in to declare that after this incident, next time its forces would respond to an attack on the Lebanese army, this in order to underline the authenticity of its role as defender of Lebanese sovereignty”.

Actually, if memory serves, Hizballah was somewhat more deferential to the Lebanese Army, and said it would respond to future attacks on the Lebanese Army if the Lebanese Army asks Hizballah to do so…

In any case, Brom’s analysis continues: “Moreover, Hizbollah senior officials claimed the incident was an expression of Israel’s desire to draw Hizbollah into a broad military confrontation. Apparently, Hizbollah has no interest in such a confrontation, at least at this time, and this reflects the extent of the mutual deterrence between Israel and Hizbollah that evolved in the aftermath of the 2006 war. This deterrence is based on the threat and capability of both sides to seriously damage the home front of the other”…

And, Brom said, “Also important here is UNIFIL’s role. If one of the two sides is interested in harming the other, it is not within UNIFIL’s power to prevent it, nor is it within its mandate. UNIFIL serves as a mechanism to help prevent conflict eruption when both sides have no interest in friction. In this case it appears that UNIFIL, cognizant of the dispute between the sides, tried to prevent the incident. Although it failed in this regard, it played an important role in contacts between the parties intent on containing the incident and preventing its mushrooming”.

Of course, it would be better if UNIFIL could fulfill its role without looking quite so silly.

UNIFIL was reportedly notified by the IDF at 0630 am on the morning of this engagement. The IDF began its “routine maintenance” at 1130 am — and the film shown on Youtube was clearly taken at mid-day.

Brom then summarizes: “Thus the initial conclusion from the August 3 incident is that all of the involved parties – Israel, Hizbollah, and the Lebanese government – want to avoid being drawn into a military confrontation and hence will strive to contain points of friction. The second conclusion is that since the interest of all sides at this time is to minimize points of friction, efforts toward the precise demarcation of the Blue Line on the ground under UNIFIL auspices must be accelerated. [Wouldn’t it have been better, here, to have written “under UN auspices”?] The third conclusion is that UNIFIL fulfills a positive and stabilizing role, even if it is unable to satisfy exaggerated Israeli expectations – to forcibly prevent any attempt to strike Israel. Within the limited framework of the mandate under Security Council Resolution 1701, UNIFIL is indeed functioning reasonably”. Shlomo Brom’s INSS analysis can be read in full here.

"It's ours!" – More Israeli imprecision about status of "border" from Haaretz

Here is another example of Israeli extreme imprecision about the nature of the demarcation between its territory and Lebanese, in a Haaretz editorial whose sub-headline says: “The government and IDF must understand that not every time is right for demonstrating Israeli sovereignty right up to the last millimeter, certainly not when tension is rising on both sides of the northern border“.

It would have been better to write: “The government and IDF must understand that not every time is right for demonstrating Israeli sovereignty right up to the last millimeter … especially when those last millimeters are not yet rightfully attributed”.

Instead, this Israeli practice of insisting that “it’s ours” — never mind the small details — leads to what is at the very least an extremely tense and dangerous atmosphere.

In fact, the “it’s ours” phenomena led, exactly, to what Israel has come to call its “Second Lebanon War” in the summer of 2006, when Hizballah fighters ambushed several Israeli soldiers along the Blue Line (in an area for which Lebanese reservations had been recorded during the demarcation process) in an operation conducted in sympathy (if not in actual coordination) with the cross-border raid from Gaza that resulted in the capture of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit in late June 2006. [Shalit is still being held captive, reportedly somewhere in Gaza.]

In any case, the Haaretz editorial itself, published yesterday (Thursday 5 August) noted that “the incident had threatening potential of widespread deterioration, and even war”. The editorial also acknowledged that “the government and the IDF have for several months been preparing the Israeli public for the possibility of a war in the north”.

Israeli friends, who get all their news from Israel Television reports — and who have total faith in every last word of those reports — have been shrieking at me for over a year that Israeli Television reports show that the entire population of southern Lebanon is being held hostage, in terror, to Hizballah, which sends troops into homes at will to fire rockets (from inside the houses) onto Israeli territory… Any question, or expressions of the slightest reserve, provoke accusations of naivete.A

The Haaretz editorial then states: “There’s no dispute, even according to the United Nations, that Israel was operating on its own territory [!!!] If Lebanon disagreed with the way the area was marked, or opposed Israel Defense Forces operations there, it could have contacted UN liaison officers”…

And, the Haaretz editorial continues: “This awareness should have led the government and the IDF to consider more carefully when to cut down a tree near the border. Operation Exposure, as the army is calling the tree cutting, may be necessary to give IDF troops a good view of what is happening in Lebanese territory, but when such an operation can trigger a war, the benefits must be weighed against the risks … The government and the IDF must understand that not every time is right for demonstrating Israeli sovereignty right up to the last millimeter, certainly not when tension is rising on both sides of the border. Employing restraint and waiting at such a time are not an expression of weakness, but of wisdom and political sensitivity”. This can be read in full here.

Angry Arab: there will [probably] not be a new Israeli-Lebanon war [now]

Via Angry Arab: “The uncovering of wide network of Israeli spies in Lebanon is the biggest espionage story in the history of the Middle East conflict”…

Angry Arab [As’ad AbuKhalil] also wrote in the same post that “People are really concerned about the prospects of an Arab-Israeli war. A friend called me from South Lebanon yesterday because his wife was freaking out being there and wanted assurances from me that there is no war. I tell people who ask me daily that there is no war coming here, but that it is hard to prove. I had a long argument/discussion with Norman Finkelstein last week about this issue: he thinks that war is coming and I don’t”…

Read this, and all the other posts too, at here.