When United Nations resolution 1701 brought a halt to the 34-day July-August 2006 Israel-Lebanon (Hezbollah) war possible new opportunities for peace emerged from the stalement. If pursued proactively by the international community as well as Hezbollah, Lebanon, Israel and the rest of the Middle East, concrete and lasting progress can be made leading to a safer, more secure and more peaceful world.
At the same time, Israel while able to capture some territory could not stop Hezbollahs rocket attacks nor impose her will. When the disproportionate Lebanese to Israeli civilian casualties are put aside, both forces likely suffered comparably losing between 100 to 200 soldiers, even if Israel engaged in inflated Vietnam-style uncorroborated body counts and Hezbollah exagerrated the number of tanks destroyed in an vain effort to save face or bolster their military successes, respectively. At the same time, both sides incurred billions of dollars in damage and lost economic activity, and continue to have persons held prisoner.
Yet the stalemate can offer an unprecedented opportunity for peace if all sides take a pragmatic approach and make an objective assessment of the recent war: No Arab state nor militia can eliminate Israel and Israel no longer possesses her unmatched military capabilities of 1967 and 1973. However, any rational approach must abstain from the current derogatory labeling, demonizing and dehumanizing of the others adversary. Statements supporting the assassination of adversarial leaders, seizures of democratically elected government officials as well as civilians, the trivializing of reciprocal demands and family bonds for those held captive are components of a simplistic, naïve recipe for disaster.
Arabs and Israelis, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have historic and legitimate claims to the Middle East. Each must accept and recognize this fact. Each must realize that negotiations as equals, not brute violence, kidnappings, destruction, and intimidation will achieve the true sovereignty and security they aspire for. Each must learn to share the land that comprises the region if they, their children and future generations are to maximize the unlimited opportunities that life, which is already too transient and fleeting, can offer.
To exploit this unprecedented opportunity, the world community must build upon and go beyond UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in a fair, even-handed, unbiased manner by establishing an immediate region-wide Middle East Peace Conference with the following objectives:
Creation of a contiguous, viable Palestinian state comprised of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem with mutually-beneficial land exchanges that do not materially compromise the essence of these characteristics, areas and existing UN resolutions, notably 242 and 252, to name a few
Repatriation of the Shebaa Farms and Golan Heights
Recognition of each others right to exist, defined borders and respective sovereignty with an internationally guaranteed security umbrella covering each and every Middle Eastern nation from acts of aggression, and the
Unconditional release of all prisoners regardless of their nationality, status, and role in the decades-long conflict
As a good-faith effort, the Beirut government and Hezbollah could take a significant step in establishing the Lebanese sovereignty that Israel and the United States demands in U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah could agree to merge their forces, in which Hezbollahs soldiers with their battle-tested strength and courage, could serve as the back-bone of the nations military with the latter, regarded as a hero in much of the Middle East, serving as Defense Minister. At the same time, Hezbollah as an elected representative party and part of the countrys national fabric would continue to serve in the Lebanese government bringing the nation her first real unity since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Tehrans recent expressed willingness for serious negotiations regarding her nuclear research and development also enhance this new opportunity. If the world community plays their cards right creating a nuclear-and-weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East, in which Israeli compliance too, would be mandated, the prospects of Iranian acceptance will be enhanced since Tehran as well as other Middle Eastern states, would be deprived of their key defense: Creating a credible counterbalance to Israels unconventional dominance to defend their respective sovereignty and citizens from intimidation and/or attack.
A new Middle East rising from the ashes of the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese (Hezbollah) conflict would not only extract each side from the jaws of defeat, but also make everyone a real versus rhetorical winner. Next as differences are bridged through mutual respect, peoples and countries could form genuine, lasting bonds of friendship and cooperation. Such an achievement would then serve as the greatest tribute to the decades-long conflicts victims and provide a bright future for the present and future generations to come, leading to a safer, more secure and more peaceful world.
 Mubarak says Hezbollah ‘part of the Lebanese national fabric.’Haaretz.com. 20 August 2006. 22 August 2006. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=752194&contrassID=1&subContrassID=1]
William Sutherland is a published poet and writer. He is the author of three books, “Poetry, Prayers & Haiku” (1999), “Russian Spring” (2003) and “Aaliyah Remembered: Her Life & The Person behind the Mystique” (2005) and has been published in poetry anthologies around the world. He has been featured in “Who’s Who in New Poets” (1996), “The International Who’s Who in Poetry” (2004), and is a member of the “International Poetry Hall of Fame.” He is also a contributor to Wikipedia, the number one online encyclopedia.
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