An Israeli-Lebanese Peace Treaty

by Gedalyah Reback

The basic outline of an Israeli-Lebanese treaty has never been drawn. But its tenets would be simple – much simpler than an Israeli-Syrian treaty and by far easier to implement than an Israeli-Palestinian treaty.

There are truly no qualms between the two countries. Before the war in 2006, only convoluted claims to territory Israel acquired from Syria (in the Golan Heights) by Hizbullah prevented a political connection between the two countries. But of course, this was only regarding disputes between the two states. The role Syria plays on Lebanese policy would prevent any Lebanese treaty coming to fruition before one between Jerusalem and Damascus.

Truthfully, the ascent of Hizbullah into the cabinet would put it into a precarious position. If the West allows Hizbullah to have significant influence on the government, public overtures by Israel would complicate the party’s ability to manage the coalition it would lead. Lebanese society may be frustrated by 2006 and its past experiences with Israel, but the animosity is not virulent in each community. Christians have historic alliances with the Israelis, and initially supported the Israeli operations in July 2006 (before they undid Lebanese infrastructure).

A treaty would alleviate much of the pressure on Lebanon coming from its eastern neighbor and defang any reason for Hizbullah to maintain its weapons arsenal. A sustained, honest and public appeal to the Lebanese people from credible Israeli leadership would divide the Lebanese electorate on questions of reconciling with the Israelis, coming to term with the past, arranging compensation for unnecessary infrastructure destruction or deaths, and coming to some mutual understanding about the Shebaa Farms (the territory under dispute).

Such a question would have the potential to break the coalition Hizbullah has managed to foster and swing the Lebanese center, or its oscillating minority groups, back into the pro-Western political camp. The support of the United States, France and even Turkey would make such a treaty iron-clad and potentially could reopen Beirut to the international investment it enjoyed before the civil war (beginning in 1975).

Lebanon may now have grievances over infrastructure damage from the 2006 war or how to delineate the maritime border between the two countries when it comes to drilling for offshore gas. These are issues that are, in the realistic sense, cheap. They can be dealt with easily. The effect a peace treaty would have on the Lebanese economy would be astounding.

There is no reason why the mere attempt to trip up Hizbullah should not be implemented. No matter how many times Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are referenced, or the Shebaa Farms and Ghajar are brought up, each time a treaty is suggested Lebanese will grow warmer to the idea. Hizbullah need not be opposed solely by the gun, but also by the pen.

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