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by Pierre Laurent

LEBANON: We Must Act, Quickly!

Translated by Ann Drummond

Translated Tuesday 18 July 2006, by Ann Drummond

UN intervention in Lebanon and Gaza is essential to defuse the escalating violence in the region. The civilian populations are suffering intolerable hardship which can only be stopped by a negotiated settlement.

In these terrible times for the populations of Gaza and Lebanon, we must at all costs stop ourselves from being overwhelmed by a feeling of resignation, believing that the region has entered yet another all too familiar period of tension, against which any resistance would be futile. The reasons for being concerned are extremely serious. The human suffering endured by this region cannot be tolerated any longer. Once again Gaza is experiencing a bloodthirsty occupation. Lebanon is counting its dead by the dozen - it may erupt in violence at any moment, and the whole region along with it.

We must face this situation head-on. The warlike escalation we are witnessing, along with the brutal nature of the Israeli military offensive, warrants immediate international intervention in order to avert the worst. France and Europe must act immediately to obtain firm resolutions from the UN Security Council demanding an end to hostilities, respect for the territorial integrity of Lebanon and international law, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and Gaza, and a resumption of the political process for a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian problem. It is vital to send in a substantial peacekeeping force to protect the civilian population, acting under the aegis of the UN.

The disproportionate response shown by Israel to the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers, at the risk of provoking widespread violence, demonstrates the unavoidable necessity for the international community to take this situation in hand.

The Palestinian problem continues to be the central issue in all the regional upheavals. So the confrontation between Israel and Hamas is a deadly one. Ehud Olmert’s government could have seized the olive branch offered by the joint Palestinian agreement in which the Hamas government acknowledged the fact of Israel’s existence for the first time. Instead of which the Israeli government chose to respond to provocation by armed Islamic groups with the reoccupation of Gaza, killing this faint embryonic hope. An identical sequence of events has just catapulted Lebanon into violence. And here again we must ask ourselves: what exactly is Israel trying to achieve by this action, other than an escalation of the inevitable war which will ensue from a deluge of bombing raids in response to a deliberate provocation by Hezbollah?
This escalation on all sides is even more dangerous in that it is proof of the game being played by all those who refuse to countenance the revival of a genuine peace process. And inside what is an unbelievably dangerous powder keg, the populations of the region are the ones who are the real losers in all of this.

The regional cocktail is once again an explosive one: with an over-equipped Israeli army intervening wherever, whenever and however it wants, in defiance of all international laws; with numerous Islamic groups, also heavily armed and riding the crest of the wave of frustrations in the Arab world; with a war which continues to destabilize Iraq; with Iran fired to boiling point by its extremist leaders; with Lebanon ready to implode; with Syria in a state of high tension; and finally, and most significantly, with the US pulling all the strings, playing on the divisions on all sides, fuelling tensions and warlike sparks on the pretext of fighting a war on terror which, in reality, their policies sustain on a daily basis.

A few nice words pronounced at the G8 meeting will not be adequate, and even those are not guaranteed, in order to pull back from this current crisis. We need resolute international action based on clear terms, which must involve nothing short of negotiation and the swift implementation of an agreement which finally recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people to a viable state, ensuring the security of the state of Israel and the integrity of other states in the region. Any other way forward, starting with international impunity in the face of the present acts of war, would be nothing less than blatant encouragement of all the arguments for confrontation.

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