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Israel stokes Lebanon conflict fears to distract from protests and Palestine

Published time: August 15, 2011 05:53
Edited time: August 15, 2011 10:02

A Lebanese soldier stands watch along the southern Lebanon-Israel border on August 1, 2011 (AFP Photo / Ali Dia)

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Israel might be planning to launch a new war on Lebanon, at least that is what peace activists and protesters in Tel Aviv fear, exactly five years after the last deadly assault on its northern neighbor.

­They believe a new conflict could also be used to shift attention from Israel's own ongoing social protests, as well as trying to topple Hezbollah from power.

Israelis are convinced that, five years since the last Israel-Lebanon war, Hezbollah is rearming itself, backed by Syria and Iran.

Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom confirms that, “We can anticipate, unfortunately, deterioration in the situation to a much bigger war.”

The goal of the new war to be waged, as research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies Dr. Benedetta Berti says, “is to wipe out Hezbollah, to disarm it and have one less enemy at the border.”

But, say the critics, thinking a war is inevitable is simply Israeli propaganda, churned out for their own purposes.

“They recycle war every five years. The Israelis, they like all the times to justify it as a defense war, they want to defend themselves, while they are planning the war from the beginning,” Alman Farah-A-Din from the Arab Centre for Human Rights in Golan maintains.

But if war is on the cards, now is as good a time as any. Syrian president Bashar Assad, is struggling to stay in power, and Hezbollah in Lebanon cannot be sure of his support.

“A fall of the Syrian regime may create a new government that may want to shift away from the Iranian alliance. In turn that may trigger Israel to go and try to take out Hezbollah when it is at its weakest,” assumes Dr. Berti.

And as fate would have it, it is not only Hezbollah that is weak.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is facing the toughest challenge of his current two-and-a-half year premiership. The ongoing social protests in Israel are now entering their fourth week and the demand for Netanyahu to make drastic change is as drastic as ever, which is why some suggest there is nothing like a war to quieten those young protestors.

“It’s certainly a great temptation. These people who are conducting the process are the same people that would go to the army to fight a war,” says Uri Avnery, the founder of Gush Shalom peace movement.

And such a war would also potentially distract the United Nations and international community from recognizing a Palestinian state, which is on the cards for approval next month.

Uri Avnery predicts that “Palestinians will start peaceful mass demonstrations to dramatize this event, and [the] Israeli army will shoot on them and there will be people killed, then they will shoot back and then you have a really ‘full flesh’ war. This is really what everybody is preparing for.”

And among the occasional border skirmishes and aerial incursions, it is really just a matter of time until the next full-scale conflict.

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