katyusha hizbullah 298.8.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora appealed on Sunday to the international community, begging for an immediate cease-fire under the auspices of the United Nations. The prime minister also called for the establishment of the government's sovereignty in all Lebanese territory in cooperation with the UN, promising to spread the forces of the Lebanese army in the South.
If the Lebanese government was unable to take over the South before the hostilities broke out, how will it be able to do so now? Today, when many Lebanese complain that Hizbullah has hijacked their country, it's not unreasonable to ask why Hizbullah wasn't stripped of its power before the disaster happened.
It is common knowledge that the Lebanese army is not sufficiently well trained or organized to defend the country's borders or rebuff Hizbullah, which de facto has become the only effective Lebanese armed force. The question is why Lebanon, which is squeezed between much more powerful and potentially dangerous countries, which interfered with its security in the past, didn't build a powerful army to defend its independence during the 14 years that have passed since the end of the civil war.
It can be claimed that Lebanon gained its independence only last year, when the Syrians left the country, and even now, after the elections and the formation of an anti-Syrian coalition, Lebanon doesn't yet enjoy freedom. But in fact, many Lebanese say that it's the ghost of the civil war that prevents the Lebanese from building a powerful and capable military force. In "the country of a thousand minorities," as Lebanon calls itself, everybody is afraid of breaking the fragile balance that was achieved after 1992.
"I believe that there will be no civil war again in Lebanon, but the tension in the country is palpable and keeps building up," a local journalist who writes for the influential As-Safir newspaper told The Jerusalem Post just a few days before the outbreak of the current hostilities.
Another Lebanese freelance journalist said although there is enough money in the country, everybody is afraid that a powerful army will be misused by one of the minorities against the other.
As for Hizbullah's arms, a 17-month-old national dialogue whose main point was disarming of all Lebanese parties and groups proved to be a total fiasco. Just last week the Lebanese press reported that the talks had reached a dead end and that the parties were unsure how they would get back to these talks in the future. But there was no feeling on the Lebanese street that Hizbullah must disarm. First of all, there are more then a million alleged Hizbullah supporters in Lebanon, Shi'ite Muslims who see in Hizbullah not just a military organization, but a movement that provides for their social and religious needs.
Secondly, while many non-Shi'ite Lebanese were sure until now that Hizbullah weapons were indeed meant to be used against Israeli aggression, and for the sake of Lebanon's defense the group should stay armed, some now have doubts.
Only a few Hizbullah critics, such as Communications Minister Marwan Hamada, constantly call for the disarming of the group. Others, such as ex-prime minister Dr. Salim al-Hoss, were sure that "Hizbullah will never use its weapons against the Lebanese."
Hizbullah's weapons may not be directly used against Lebanon, but in fact all the rockets fired on Israeli targets boomeranged 10 times harder in Lebanon. Today Hizbullah targets are being hit hard, but it is almost certain that the ideas and the ideology of this organization will continue to exist long after the current hostilities end. Radical Islam, no matter which form it takes, never gives up that quickly. So perhaps it is time for the Lebanese to re-evaluate the current situation, and to start fighting those who harm their country today, rather then fighting the ghosts of the past.