Elias Harfoush
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
January 15, 2009 - 1:00am

The battle of Gaza has proven, as have before it Israel's wars against Lebanon, that the time of Arab wars against Israel has ended. What we mean by "Arab wars" are those wars which the Arabs fought together, under a single military strategy aimed at reaching a single goal.

The war of 1973 was the last of these wars, and it is because it was so that it was able to return some land and some dignity. Arab history has continued to mention it as a late correction, one which has remained a single occurrence, of the catastrophe that befell the Arabs and their lands in 1967, as a result of poor planning and estimation in entering the war, and also because slogans and radio enthusiasm replaced fighting abilities in facing Israel.

After 1973, the Arabs entered the era of individual peace and individual wars. Individual peace was able to return their lands to each of Egypt and Jordan, as it was able to give the Palestinians a chance of returning their authority, even if limited, to their own land. Individual wars, on the other hand, have often produced disastrous results.

The Palestinian Resistance fought the war of 1982 alone on Lebanese soil, supported as usual by a fair number of protests, slogans and declarations of support. It ended up ousted from the most significant position it had obtained, being at the border to confront Israel, and sent to Tunisia and other lands of exile. Hezbollah also fought its war alone in 2006, and Hezbollah's Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, eventually had to confess that, if he had known what the war on Lebanon would result in, he would never have approved of it. That war also ended with Hezbollah forces being moved away from the direct lines of confrontation.

As for the Palestinians, they too have fought their disproportionate battles, whether in the two Intifadas or in the various confrontations with the Israelis in different regions of the occupied land. The gains that they did achieve, whether in politics or on the battlefield, were not at all proportional to their great sacrifices and to the large number of casualties. The war taking place today in Gaza is only further evidence of the danger of individually deciding to go to war against an enemy armed with the latest technology, and with underestimated international diplomatic and political support, and against a political situation in the Arab world and the region which no longer agrees with the individual strategies and plans of the forces that are behind these wars.

What adds to the danger of such individual action is that the forces which Hamas had thought would be its main support in this war have also retreated to protecting their own interests and figuring out the opportunities of exploiting this war. Of course, here we are not discussing the forces which the Islamic movement considers to be "neutral," but rather those that are allied to Hamas, whether in the Arab World or in the region. It is noteworthy, for instance, in a regional power of the size of Iran, which is considered the main reservoir for the ideology and ethics of Islamic resistance, to see the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking to Iranian youths who seek to enroll and join the Palestinian fighters, saying: "It is important for you to realize that we cannot do anything on this level!", at a time when he accuses countries in the region of having "let down" the Palestinians.

Kamenei admitting his inability to do anything could have been considered of the utmost realism, and Hamas leaders should have thus listened to his words carefully, had they not been preceded by other words. Indeed, before the start of the battles, Kamenei himself spoke of "the duty of all Mujahideen and believers in the Muslim World to defend the innocent women and children of Gaza."

There is nothing wrong with governments of the region taking a few steps back and weighing their decisions carefully, in the face of the coming changes, and especially when nearing the arrival of a new US administration, one that has been suggesting the possibility of opening dialogue channels, instead of adopting a posture of confrontation, with the Iranian regime and the regimes and forces allied with it in the region. However, it is wrong, and in fact criminal, for Gaza, with its children, women and elderly, to be the fuel necessary to prove the ability of those regimes and forces to walk the path of realism and toss aside the slogans of yesterday, if there is indeed a price appropriate for this.


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