It’s about annexation, stupid!


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Middle East
Aug 5, 2006
It's about annexation, stupid!
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Officially, Israel's ground invasion of Lebanon is an act of self-defense 
against Hezbollah's threat, aimed at creating a security buffer zone until the 
arrival of a "multinational force with an enforcement capability". But 
increasingly, as the initial goal of a narrow strip of only a few kilometers has
now been extended up to the Litani River deep in Lebanon, the real motives 
behind Israel's invasion are becoming crystal-clear.

It's about (de facto) annexation, stupid. This is a war to annex a major chunk 
of Lebanese territory without necessarily saying so, under the pretext of 
security buffer and deterrence against future attacks on Israel.

Already, since the Six Day War, Israel has annexed the Sheba Farms, considered 
part of the Syrian Golan Heights, although the government of Lebanon has long 
complained that the 25-square-kilometer area was a part of Lebanon. Now the 
Israeli army is sweeping the area south of the Litani River as a temporary 

"We have no intention of extending our operation more than 70 kilometers north 
of our borders with Lebanon," stated Lieutenant-Colonel Hemi Lini on the 
Lebanese border on July 17, one week after the war's outbreak.

This would put Israel, assuming for a moment that the Israel Defense Forces' 
operations prove ultimately successful, in control of the Litani River, thus 
fulfilling Israel's founding fathers' dream, stretching back to Chaim Weizmann, 
head of the World Zionist Organization, who in 1919 declared the river 
"essential to the future of the Jewish national home".

Consequently, contrary to the pro-Israel pundits' reassurances that this war is 
not about occupation, all the tangible signs indicate the exact opposite, ie, 
the distinct possibility of a "war of acreage" whereby Israel would expand its 
territory, acquire a new strategic depth, and simultaneously address its chronic
water shortage by exploiting the Litani.

Access to the Litani would translate into an annual increase of water supply by 
800 million cubic meters. This in turn might allow Israel to bargain with Syria 
over the Golan Heights, source of a full one-third of Israel's fresh water. 
However, a more likely scenario is Israel's continued unwillingness to abide by 
United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338 calling for its withdrawal from the 
Syrian territories.

The entire Western media have settled on a naive perspective of the reasons for 
Israel's invasion of Lebanon, namely as a defensive measure against Hezbollah. 
Conspicuously absent is any serious consideration of a viable, alternative 
explanation while focusing on, in essence, the same ingredients as in the 1982 
invasion: "deceit and misleading statements" by leaders, "inaccurate 
announcements" by the military spokesmen, and "gross exaggeration" of threats, 
to paraphrase a candid reflection of an Israeli general, Yehoshafat Harkabi.

Following this scenario, Israel has dropped leaflets throughout southern Lebanon
warning the civilians to leave or risk their lives, as they would be considered 
"Hezbollah sympathizers" if they refused to leave. Reminiscent of Israel's 
annexation of Palestinian lands in 1948 and beyond, the present war is causing 
mass refugees, who in all likelihood will not return to their homes any time 

The geostrategic and water dimensions of Israel's quest to possess southern 
Lebanon notwithstanding, the question is, of course, whether or not the world 
community will tolerate such a development that would remake the map of the 
Middle East.

There are plenty of reasons to think that in light of the United States' 
complicit silence on Israel's violation of the territorial integrity of Lebanon,
Israel will somehow manage to ride out the international criticisms and stick to
its undeclared plan to annex southern Lebanon. However, what is less certain is 
that the combined efforts of Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanese society, not to 
mention other Arab contributions, will prevail over Israel's appetite for a 
decent part of Lebanon.

With the military balance disproportionately in Israel's favor, we can safely 
assume that the new Operation Litani will succeed and thus create a "new Middle 
East" with a "greater" and geographically expanded Israel and a shrunken or 
diminished Lebanon.

If so, then the chronology of events narrated by future historians will closely 
follow this line of thought: that Israel deliberately provoked Hezbollah into 
action, after a six-year hiatus, by pressuring Hezbollah's ally, Hamas, which 
was subjected to a campaign of terror, financial squeeze and intimidation.

The laying of such a trap by Israel would not have happened in a vacuum of 
strategic thinking on Israel's part. The fact that Hezbollah fell into the trap 
is a result of several factors, including an adventurist element lending itself 
to the "reckless" action of Hezbollah on July 11 with respect to crossing the 
Blue Line and attacking an Israeli patrol.

Since then, the Israelis have put on the mask of being reluctant warriors, 
delaying their troops' entry into south Lebanon and thus perpetuating Israel's 
self-image as disinterested in any imperial grand objectives. Yet the facts on 
the ground speak louder than words and, indeed, what fact is more important than
Israeli leaders' announced intention to occupy up to the Litani River?

Again, what is understandably omitted in those announcements, adopted as the 
real reasons by CNN and other US networks, is Israel's predatory lust after 
Litani's water sources, as well as for new geographical and strategic depth. 
This in turn might explain the otherwise inexplicably blatant overreaction of 
Israel to a border incident with Hezbollah.

Instead of searching for answers in the Israeli collective psyche or in the 
context of action, we must probe the answer in the writings of Israel's founding
fathers, including Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion, commonly yearning for 
Israel's control of the Litani River. As a timely addition to their old wish, 
Israel today has a security-related explanation, justifying the territorial 
takeover in the near future in terms of the lessons of the present war, the main
lesson being Israel's dire need to gain strategic depth to avoid rocket attacks.

Indeed, the verdict will soon be out in Israel about the precious lesson of 
Lebanon War II, that is, how to prevent future rocket attacks in the only 
feasible way, that is, direct control of southern Lebanon.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in 
Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's 
Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 
2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping Iran's nuclear potential 
latent", Harvard International Review. He is author of Iran's Nuclear Program: 
Debating Facts Versus Fiction.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.

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