“Israel will be compelled to negotiate, whether it likes it or not. Now it’s performing a dangerous game, it bombs us from the coasts, from the sky and from land. But the Middle East is already burning, and a little is enough for the fire to get completely out of control.”
Ghassan Tueni, one of the most respected academics and political figures in Lebanon, editor of the liberal daily Al-Nahar and father to that Jebruan Tueni, leader of the Cedars’ Revolution, who was murdered by a car-bomb in 2005, is speaking from Beirut: with his ear at the phone, his eyes staring at the tv and the war images that are coming back to rack the country.
Mr. Tueni, 23 years after the Israeli invasion of 1982, Tzahal army is again crossing the border. What do you expect to come of this?
“It’s too soon to guess Israel’s intentions. The destruction of bridges and of the main roads of communication closely follows a precise military map and it allows us to predict their desire to prevent the Lebanese army from getting to the south, or else of preparing a land invasion.”
Israel has defined the soldiers’ kidnapping as an “act of war”.
“Quite so. Yet, our two countries are, technically, already at a stage of war, therefore this doesn’t change the matter. For what it's worth, on the contrary, is that Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, is ready for an indirect negotiation: the release of the Israeli soldiers in exchange for that of the Arab prisoners. They will try the negotiation and Israel will welcome it, as it has always done, behind the scenes: there’s only one way out and Israel is well aware of it.”
The American President Bush casts the blame on Syria and Iran for their support of Hezbollah. Your relations with Syria are already tense. Will they worsen?
“Syria will play the negotiation card. It will set itself as a pivotal element for any solution. Yet, the negotiation, as I was telling you, is inevitable. A different matter is the Israel military escalation.”
Notwthstanding, also Hezbollah, today a party that is present in the Parliament, has had its share in the escalation. What stance will your government take?
“You see, at the moment, the problem with Lebanon is that it is forced to adopt a margin of ambiguity. The Israeli siege of Gaza has aroused an imposing wave of solidarity with the Palestinian people and with the resistance forces. Now, in Beirut, the resistance is in power, hence the government is between the devil and the deep blue sea: between the problem the resistance entails, and the solidarity that it gets. Yet, there’s unanimity over one point: everyone wants the release of Arab prisoners from the Israeli prisons.”
You say “Arabs”, but most of the prisoners are Palestinians.
“There’s no difference between the two terms, Gaza’s devastation has erased any residual distance before the eyes of the public opinion. I’m not referring to Arab solidarity on a political level, that is at the lowest point ever. You will see, no Arab country will raise a finger should Lebanon be attacked.”
Nonetheless, the US back the new Lebanese government and Hariri’s political majority. You too, Mr. Tueni, are considered to be amongst these. You’re regarded as the man of reconciliation par excellence.
“Let’s not cherish false illusions. Washington forgets any sympathy when Israel is concerned: it will willingly sacrifice us. Bush’s administration has covered the Israeli siege against the Palestinian civilian population by qualifying it as self-defence. Yet, that action breaks with international law and chases away any possible solution. If Israel’s military escalation goes on, there’s no room for any message of reconciliation.”
Translated from Italian by Diego Traversa and revised by Mary Rizzo, member of Tlaxcala (www.tlaxcala.es) the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is on copyleft and may be freely reproduced, without changing it, citing the source.