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Opinion: "It's a Long Way to Peace"

Peter Philipp (tt)August 14, 2006

In accordance with UN Resolution 1701, a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon came into effect on Monday morning. But it's still a long way to peace, says DW's Peter Philipp.


After weeks of discussion, the UN Security Council managed to find a formula for a ceasefire in Lebanon. The weapons have been silent since Monday morning. But things are not necessarily that simple: Resolution 1701 would not be the first UN resolution about the Middle East that awakens hopes which it doesn't fulfill. Not that the Security Council hadn't tried its best: Stopping the recent fighting was significantly more complicated than in other crisis and war situations. This was no war between two states with regular armed forces, but rather one of those "asymmetrical" conflicts that have started replacing "traditional" wars.

The success of the UN resolution depends not on the good will of the Security Council members, but only on the warring parties. And both parties apparently agreed to it only because they realized that things couldn't go on like this any longer.

A no-win situation

The Israeli government does not acknowledge this openly, but it must have realized that it got itself involved in a military adventure that it couldn't win at any level: Even the strongest army in the region is powerless against the well-equipped and extremely motivated group of local guerillas such as Hezbollah. And it was madness to think that it was possible to defeat or expel Hezbollah with air strikes.

Israel also lost against the people in Lebanon who do not support Hezbollah: Massive Israeli attacks on civilians and the infrastructure in the country have cost Israel its last bits of sympathy and understanding in Lebanon.

It was no different internationally. Israel complained that the media reported one-sidedly and that the Lebanese suffering was pushed more to the foreground than that of the Israelis. It was pushed to foreground because it was many times bigger and because it was caused by a state whose prime minister only recently claimed that it had the most moral army in the world.

Hezbollah couldn't afford to go on like this

But Hezbollah must have also begun to realize that it cannot afford a war of this kind in the long term. Although they did surprise everybody -- the Israelis, in particular -- with their firmness and endurance, they would have in the long term succumbed to the massive Israeli strikes and led Lebanon to disaster along the way.

Even as it is, Hezbollah bears the responsibility of having started this war. But it knew how to present itself as the only resistance group that should be taken seriously. Had the war escalated even further, Hezbollah would have probably lost this sympathy bonus from the Lebanese people.

And now? There is a long way from a ceasefire -- if it is kept -- to permanent peace. It will surely take several weeks for the Lebanese and international forces to replace the Israeli troops in southern Lebanon. In the meantime, they will not want to leave the country and Hezbollah will also not want to put their arms to rest.

Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent and an expert on the Middle East (tt).