Cautious Optimism

The adoption of U.N. resolution 1701 is cause for very cautious optimism. Both Israel and Hizbullah have agreed to a ceasefire, but of course it’s too early to tell whether it will hold. The very sad truth is that, from a strategic point of view, Hassan Nasrallah comes out of this horrendous tragedy at a huge political advantage: His fighters have sustained relatively few casualties; the large number of civilian deaths has resulted in an across-the-board surge of support for him; and disarmament is obviously thoroughly unenforcable. If he wished, he could now run for Prime Minister of Lebanon and win.

Meanwhile, Olmert’s popularity has been steadily declining since the first week of hostilities; he faces tough questions at home as to why the best trained and most funded army in the region could not defeat a few hundred guerillas; and no doubt Olmert’s opponents have been watching. It will be interesting to see what the political fallout will be.

For most people in the region, however, this war has no victors. On the Israeli side, 41 civilians and 108 soldiers were killed; and 300,000 people were displaced. On the Lebanese side, 1,130 civilians, 35 soldiers and 65 Hizbollah guerrillas were killed; and 1 million people were displaced. Lebanon has lost much of its infrastructure: Airport, seaport, roads, hospitals, and factories. All the bridges on the Litani river have been destroyed. And peaceful cohabitation has been set back another 20 or 30 years.

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