Raghida Dergham
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
October 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Perhaps Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad truly believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran is capable of bringing down the United States of America and of wiping Israel out of existence. Perhaps this is why he wages escalation campaigns amid the international media attention gathered around him and the popular rallies organized for him, like the one prepared by Hezbollah to welcome him in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that it is Ahmadinejad’s provocative stances and his methods of “resistance” that are becoming ammunition for Israel and for the extremist ruling faction there, which has begun to implement their plan for a Jewish State in the sense of Israel being exclusively for Jews and not Palestinians. In other words, the Iranian President is providing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with what he wishes for, namely: ammunition and momentum to hasten the implementation of the plan to “cleanse” Israel of Palestinians through forced deportation, communal expulsion or forcible “transfer”. The question is: what will Ahmadinejad or the Islamic Republic of Iran do when Israel implements what it has in mind in response to the outbidding practiced by his regime and by him personally. Will Iran engage in a war against Israel, one it has never waged over the ages? Most probably not. Will the “resistance” shared by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian factions in Lebanon truly be shared and a partner in the war to save the Palestinians from the clutches of an ethnic cleansing which might be worse than that which took place in Yugoslavia a mere two decades ago? The answer is an almost certain “no”. Then why is Iran implicating the Palestinians in this way? And why does Ahmadinejad believe it to be part of his rights and powers to speak from Lebanese soil words that summon an Israeli war against Lebanon? The reason is that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Jewish State of Israel need each other as enemies. Indeed, each of them makes use of its enmity towards the other to serve its own interests and ambitions, whether ambitions of expansion and “purification”, as does Israel, which sounds the alarm of the Iranian threat in order to obtain funds and sympathy and to strengthen its military alliance with the United States and others, or ambitions of nuclear capabilities or of regional hegemony, as does Iran, which also seeks to lead the entire Muslim world, and which for this needs Israel as its enemy in order to lead a massive popular campaign entitled “Death to America” or “Wiping Out Israel”. The victim of such mutual enmity sought-after by both Iran and Israel is Palestine first, and Lebanon second. Yet the matter will not end with these two alone. Indeed, the coming war will be unrestrained unless all players, regional and international, begin working immediately to stop the march towards a bloodbath with an unusual strategy and unusual stances. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are at the forefront of the countries that must reconsider the slowness with which they deal with the developments of the issues of Palestine and Lebanon (and also Iraq), as well as review their understanding of what the matter requires at this important stage. The first thing they must take note of is that developments in Lebanon should not be dealt with at a sectarian or denominational level but rather at an economic, institutional and political level par excellence, in order to avoid falling into the trap of sectarianism. At the Palestinian level, what these two important Arab countries must do is add a highly important appendix to the Arab Peace Initiative towards Israel – one that preempts measures to turn Israel into a state exclusive to Jews.

The Barack Obama Administration, which is working to drive Palestinian-Israeli negotiations forward with the aim of completing them in a year, so as for Palestine to become a member of the United Nations, as the US President said before the UN General Assembly, has fallen into the trap of merely launching negotiations and freezing settlement-building. Of course, logically, continuing settlement-building – which is illegal in the first place – is at odds with plans for a two-state solution and for establishing the State of Palestine. Yet what is being announced politically in terms of plans for Israel as a state for Jews requires the awareness of the US.

Washington is therefore required to have a strategy to confront any Israeli plan involving communal expulsion of Palestinians in order to purify Israel ethnically or religiously. The European Union has asked Israel this week to ensure the rights of all its citizens, this in response to Netanyahu suggesting in his latest “novelty” that the Palestinians recognize the “nation-state of the Jewish people” in exchange for a temporary freeze of illegal Israeli settlement-building. This “novelty” has come in the wake of the Israeli government passing the new racist “nationality law”, which requires new non-Jewish citizens in Israel to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. Such a modest stance by the European Union is nearly one of pure form. Indeed, the countries of the European Union and the Obama Administration must obtain firm guarantees that the Israeli government will not deport its Arab citizens or mistreat them in order to force them to leave.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will not put forward any anticipatory strategy to confront these evil plans, and it is not required to do so. All that is required of it is to stop hastening the Israeli plan as a result of Iranian outbidding and of providing pretexts exactly as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does.

Arab countries – and in particular Egypt and Saudi Arabia – must think carefully of the choices available to stop Israel from implementing such a plan under an old pretext, initiative or strategy. Indeed, what Israeli circles are discussing can be summed up as radically resolving what they consider to be a demographic problem within Israel itself. In other words, what is being put forward is not the issue of the right of return, and what Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed is at a vast distance from the trade-off which had been implicitly put forward in the past between the right of return (with the exception of a limited number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon) and compensation by removing the majority of settlements, whereby Israel would become a Jewish-majority country that would not be required to receive Palestinians exercising their right of return.

Such a proposition is as far as can be from the offers made by Netanyahu, who today is described as “moderate”, compared to his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Thus, coordinating roles, Netanyahu says today that he is willing to “freeze” settlement-building in exchange for “recognition” that Israel is only for Jews. This means obtaining Palestinian or Arab approval for expelling or “transferring” those Palestinians who are known as “Israeli Arabs” – exactly as Lieberman sought to achieve through his proposal based on “population exchange”. However, if “enticement” with this “peaceful initiative” by Israel were to fail, what is required from the Israeli perspective is the pretext to implement this strategy forcibly. This is where the role played by Ahmadinejad, the Palestinian factions in Gaza and most prominently Hamas, in addition to Hezbollah, comes into play. The role they play is that of providing the pretexts to uproot the Palestinians from their homeland.

Clearly and frankly, whatever Hezbollah’s arrogance and its boasting of its rockets and of its visible and invisible arsenal, it will not be able to protect a single Palestinian or Israeli Arab from terrible oppression and communal expulsion when Israel begins its operations under the umbrella of blinding or fabricated wars. Quite frankly, it is highly unlikely for the Islamic Republic of Iran to engage in a direct war against Israel, at least not in order to protect the Palestinians from being deported, just as Syria’s strategic choice is that of negotiations and peace. The time has therefore come for an honest review with regard to “resistance”, its limits and its capabilities. Indeed, it would be shameful for parties to the “resistance” and to “defiance” to make use of the Palestinians at this very dangerous phase, and it would be shameful for parties to “moderation” to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that it is just another day in the conflict.

For all these reasons, moral conscience as well as political awareness requires of Hezbollah to review its policies and stop implicating Lebanon, implicating the Palestinians and implicating itself. Moral conscience requires the Islamic Republic of Iran not to sacrifice the Palestinian people to “enmity” or to an “enemy” it seeks for its own interests – Israel. Political awareness requires the Arabs, and especially the main leaderships, to do everything they can to prevent the Israeli plan, starting from ceasing to provide it with pretexts in the name of “resistance”, whether Iranian or Arab.

Indeed, let all those who are “defiant” or “resistant” be required to provide all they hold in terms of means and capabilities to frustrate the Israeli government’s plan. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is skilled at stealing the media spotlight and becoming “the news”. Perhaps in his mind this diverts the spotlight away from Iran’s poor internal situation. Perhaps he seeks to cover up eluding international pressures, or complying with them because the sanctions really are harmful. Perhaps he wants to bring himself and his Republic out of isolation, which is why he has reinvented himself in the media and has excelled at it. Yet all of this is for the sake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and for the sake of the Islamic Republic of Iran, not for the sake of preventing what the Israeli leadership has in mind for the Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, is skilled at roundabout means and at deception, as he does not want peace and does not want the two-state solution. What Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu have in common is their skill at “using” the Barack Obama Administration. Indeed, the former strikes the hand stretched out to him –purposely ignoring the fact that it is the United States that gave the Islamic Republic its standing and its ability to interfere and to dictate as it does today. As for the latter, he applies himself to exploiting the Obama Administration’s passion and obsession with making peace with the utmost patience, trading with the goal of making peace while being resolved to wage the ugliest and most racist of wars.


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