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Both sides should claim defeat

An article I read lately by Gideon Levi suggested that both sides in the current conflict should stop the war and claim victory. It was after the 1973 war, when Egypt and Israel both were able to claim victory, that peace was made.

Instead, it might be more appropriate for both sides to claim defeat. Israel has proved already in previous wars that it is unable to beat the Hezbullah - all it can do is beat them back for a while. In the present war, Israel has also proved that it is unable to protect its civilians from Hezbollah missiles, even when it has absolute freedom of movement in the airspace above Lebanon, the ability to destroy any target, civilian or military almost with impunity, the means to keep up a constant rain of lethal shells upon the villages and fields of South Lebanon, and all the time generously awarded it by its patrons in the international community.

The Hezbollah failed, even before the war because, despite its entry into Lebanese politics, it ceased to make the transition from being a guerrilla organization engaged in freeing Lebanon from the Israeli presence. Its case for this ended when Israel returned to the blue line. The remaining segment of Lebanese soil, and the remaining prisoners, could have been freed more effectively through negotiation. Any aspirations beyond these things, such as aiding the Palestinians in their struggle, or even “ridding the Middle East of the Zionist presence” are extraneous to, or outside the scope of, its existence as an autonomous militia in Lebanon.

In the current war, Hezbollah has failed by showing that, despite its weaponry, bravery, and efficiency, it is subject to the same limitations as any guerrilla militia. With its missiles, it has succeeded in doing little actual harm to Israel. The only real utility of these missiles is to strike fear into the enemy’s population. And the Israelis have shown that they are not deterred by that factor, but only maddened by it.

Both sides have betrayed the basic expectation of ordinary people that their warriors will protect their loved ones, mothers, children and grandparents from the enemy. Here, it is not a question of proportion. Even if Israel has had the upper hand in sowing death, doom and destruction, both sides have been subject to fear and injury, and have been forced either to live in shelters or to evacuate.

Both sides should claim defeat because they resorted to military means in order to accomplish goals that could only be resolved through negotiations. Issues such as the return of prisoners, the settlement of the outstanding border dispute, the surrender of landmine maps, required negotiations rather than further violence. Any agreement that may be reached upon these issues following a ceasefire could have been more easily and less painfully achieved without bloodshed.