Roee Nahmias
Ynetnews (Opinion)
July 18, 2008 - 3:30pm,7340,L-3569839,00.html

Who is the winner and who is the loser in the prisoner exchange deal? And what will the implications be for the future? But alongside these inevitable questions there are also far tougher questions being asked, ones to do with the heavy toll exacted on Lebanon.

The vocal majority supports Hizbullah. Lebanese newspapers close to the organization are celebrating, the Hizbullah-run television station is exuberantly pumping militant video clips, smiles stretch ear-to-ear against images of the funerals in Israel and a glaringly selective roundup of editorials supporting Hizbullah.

In general – all those supporting the organization knows full well to recite how 'this is another tremendous victory in a series of victories.'

In all fairness it should be noted that a random perusal of internet news articles on these matters indicate the vast majority of Arab internet users support Hizbullah and believe its chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has once again brought Lebanon a 'glorious and honorable victory.'

But a deeper look reveals there is also criticism of Hizbullah. Such accusations are, of course, oblique, muted and originate from Sunni media outlets who have little affection for Hizbullah.

For example, in an editorial to the Kuwaiti 'Al-Watan' on Thursday, Ahmad al-Fahad writes: "Kuntar returned from the Israeli prison and his mother is happy. The Israeli prisoners were returned home. But the question that arises is – what will Mr. Kuntar's return give to the residents of Lebanon, to those killed and crippled from the war?"

The London-based 'Al-Sharq al-Awsat' also raised the heavy price Lebanon paid for the abduction of Goldwasser and Regev, which eventually led to Kuntar's release: "The Radwan deal cost Lebanon c $5.2 billion, 1,200 dead and 4,400 wounded."

Egypt's state-run 'Al-Ahram' settled for a laconic report while the Saudi 'Al-Watan,' another country hostile to Hizbullah, asserted that UN Resolution 1701 has not yet been fully implemented and that Hizbullah has yet to be disarmed."

'Israel, US changing policies'

At present time, these voices are rare and tentative. In the meantime, others foresee the so-called 'Radwan deal' will have a much deeper impact.

Joranian columnist Jamil al-Nimri, for one, believes that Hizbullah is poised to rebuild its faltering popularity – badly damaged due to internal events in Lebanon, which nearly deteriorated into full-blown civil war.

Writing in the 'Al-Ghad' daily, al-Nimri says: "Hizbullah has provided the public with a sense of pride in exchange for the feelings of humiliation that were the lot of all who gave up on the policy of power.

"One cannot ignore the embarrassment these images have caused the moderate camps among Arabs and Palestinians. This behavior on the Israeli's part shows nothing but stubbornness and a repudiation of peace."

Editor in chief of the Jordanian 'Al-Arab al-Yawm,' Taher al Adwan, says he believes the swap will have implications on the entire region and in particular on the indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria. "The indirect talks between Israel and Hizbullah indicate that the policies of Israel and the United States are in withdrawal. They are going from a policy of confrontation with resistance groups to a policy of dialogue and inclusion – based on the principles of the Cold War."

Nasrallah's star continues to rise 

In a poll published by the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute in Washington, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah emerged as the 'most admired' Arab leader. Of the thousands of respondents who took part in the study, which spanned six Arab states – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates – 26% named Nasrallah as their leader of choice in an open question.

Nearly every Shiite in Lebanon, 99% to be exact, said they believed Israel was a weak country and that it

was only a matter of time until it would be defeated. Sunni respondents said there was no way of knowing if Israel has grown stronger or weaker.

The Arab public sees Nasrallah as a strong leader even in moderate Sunni states, which oppose Hizbullah. In second place was Syrian President Bashar Assad with 16% and in third place was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with 10%.

The study was conducted in March of this year, when Lebanon was deeply embroiled in a grave political crisis. If these were the results then, we can only guess that they are today.


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