Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process: A Case Study of the Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon – Failure of Diplomacy

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Serhan, Wassef
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University of Malta; DiploFoundation
Lebanon has been an open playground for the international players for a very long time, especially when the game gets heated or cools off according to the thermometer of the regional and international environment. Why Lebanon? It’s simply because it has all the necessary elements that make it the perfect place for this game. The geographic location, in the middle of the hot zone, on the borders of Israel, Syria, and on the Mediterranean. Its demographic structure makes it a very fertile ground for this, as Lebanon has 17 different religious factions in addition to the presence of various political currents. The nature of the Lebanese people who are very active politically with known international connections (there are about 15 millions Lebanese in the Diaspora, and 3.5 millions in the country), where the Diaspora is very involved in the politics of their countries of residence, which is reflected on the internal politics. The last 50 years witnessed major changes in the country as a reflection to the international political changes in the recent decades, but with huge difference for Lebanon, as wars and bloodshed were very prominent along these years. The game started with the triggering of The Lebanese war among Muslims and Christians in 1975-1976 with the Palestinian issue at the core of this war, which resulted in the bringing of the Syrian army into Lebanon as a peace force. After that, the Israeli-Syrian struggle, and behind them the international players, was mainly applied on the Lebanese territories, by taking advantages of the Lebanese contradictions. The long lasting struggle included some major stations, like the 1978 Israeli invasion to the south of Lebanon in order to create a buffer zone they called it “ the Security Zone”, and keep the Palestinian resistance and rockets away from Israeli settlements, by using their Lebanese allies as a local army in the so called “the security zone”. The failure of this plan was followed by the bigger invasion of 1982 where Israelis entered Beirut and enforced the election of their ally, Bashir Gemayel who was assassinated few weeks after his election, then his brother Amine took over. This period witnessed the retreat of the Syrian army towards their border in the Lebanese Bekaa valley, and accordingly in diminishing their political influence. Under the circumstances, in order to regain control, Syria started backing its allies in attacking the Israeli army that started retreating gradually to the security zone under the increasing efficiency and fierce operations of Hezbollah. Syria took advantage and regained total political control in 1990 after years of internal fighting rounds among the various Lebanese parties and a new Lebanese president, this time an ally of Syria was elected. At the same time, Hezbollah was gaining a lot of popularity in the country and in the region. For the first time in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the (legendary) Israeli army was forced to get out from a land it occupied, under the attacks of the resistance. This unusual event had a great impact in the region and in particular in the occupied Palestine, where a similar movement to Hezbollah (Hamas), started adopting this same approach. This major turning point deserves to be a study case because of its importance & implications on the events in our modern Middle East history.