Here is a very interesting article about the relationship between Israel and Lebanon. Most Lebanese Christians have no beef with Israel and would like normal relationship. In the case of the Maronites, they are actually ethnic cousins of Jews. The Sunnis also want normalized relations with Israel. The Shia, who support Hezbollah are the problem and have an animus towards Israel because of decades of Iranian propaganda.
The country has technically been at war with its southern neighbor since the Jewish state declared independence in 1948. Israeli citizens are banned. Even foreigners are banned if they have Israeli stamps in their passports. Lebanese citizens aren’t allowed to have any communication of any kind with Israelis anywhere in the world. If citizens of the two countries meet, say, on a beach in Cyprus or in a bar in New York, the Lebanese risks prison just for saying hello. Israel doesn’t even exist on Lebanese maps.
At the same time, with the possible exception of Morocco, Lebanon is in important ways the least anti-Israel country in the Arab world. Indeed, decades ago many Israelis assumed it would be among the first Arab countries to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state. It made sense at the time. With its enormous one-third Christian minority (it used to have an outright Christian majority), it’s the least Muslim and most religiously diverse of all the Arab countries. And since a huge number of its Christians insist they aren’t even Arabs, Lebanon might be the least Arab of the Arabic-speaking countries. Its capital, Beirut, has more in common with Tel Aviv than with any Arab city, including those in Lebanon itself. Put simply, Lebanon is just about the only Arab country where Israel can find natural allies.
I’ve been working in Lebanon on and off for eight years, and I’ve noticed that things have changed since the Syrian revolution broke out in 2011.
The red line on Israel isn’t as bright as it used to be. Except for the usual warmongering rhetoric from Hezbollah, I sense more moderation and sanity than I used to. It doesn’t surprise me. Peace between Israel and Lebanon is still a long way off, but the possibility is now at least conceivable, mainly because the end of Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad will be the beginning of the end for Hezbollah. And they’re the ones who enforce the red line on Israel.
This became clear to me when I had lunch with Mosbah Ahdab, a Sunni politician and former member of parliament from Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city.
The Gemayels and their party were allied with Israel during Lebanon’s civil war. Samy Gemayel’s uncle, Bashir, swore to vanquish Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon, to throw out the Syrian army, and to sign a peace treaty with Jerusalem. Naturally the Israelis backed him to the hilt in 1982 when they invaded and he was elected president.
Hezbollah is a cancer on Lebanon and the region. If that entity was removed or defanged, Israelis and Lebanese can enjoy normal relations and work together for a better future.
Tags: Michael J. Totten