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Sunday, July 23, 2006

All they have to do is live


AP Photo: A Palestinian man stands next to a
drawing depicting Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan
Nasrallah

For Hezbollah, survival may mean victory

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer Sat Jul 22, 7:32 PM ET

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah acknowledges that Israeli troops can sweep across south Lebanon. But if he and his militants can survive and keep fighting, he will cement his image as the unlikely new hero of Arab nationalism.

Israeli troops backed by tanks fought their way into southern Lebanon Saturday at the start of a ground assault to drive the Islamic guerrilla group away from the border and put Israeli cities beyond the reach of its rockets.

"I don't want to raise expectations. I never said that the Israelis cannot reach any place in southern Lebanon," says Nasrallah, a black-turbaned Shiite cleric whom
Israel has tried repeatedly to kill.

"Our dogma and strategy is when the Israelis come, they must pay a high price. This is what we promise and this is what we will achieve, God willing."

The fighting was sparked by Hezbollah's July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight others in a cross-border raid. A massive Israeli offensive followed and Hezbollah responded by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel.

More than 370 people have been killed in Lebanon over the past 11 days, authorities said. In Israel, 34 have died.

Anticipating the ground assault, Nasrallah sought to ensure his group's survival and safeguard its widening base of support in Lebanon and abroad by lowering the bar for what would constitute victory.

In a television interview broadcast Friday, he defined victory as a successful defense.

And he acknowledges the gravity of defeat.

"A defeat in Lebanon will end the region's resistance movements, the Palestinian cause and impose Israel's conditions for a settlement," he warned.


The problem is that Israel cannot stay in South Lebanon. They can bomb, but they cannot stay. And as long as Hezbollah stays in the field, they win.

Israel is frustrated, 50 years of war does that. They want peace and the calculation is that if they crush Hezbollah with shock and awe, they can win.

Some people are wondering when Hezbollah strikes at the US. My bet is that CNN and the BBC are doing a far better job of undermining Israel than a bomb would. Lebanon was at peace, this is like bombing and invading Cancun in mid-winter.

One of the things which is immediately apparent is that Israel is losing the media war. Striking Lebanon in the height of summer created a story the Israelis had monopolized for a long time. Now, it's ordinary people getting killed. The Hezbollah soldiers on camera look normal, no masks, no keffiyahs, just jeans. They speak English. They are courteous, even helpful to the reporters.

Despite it's capacity for violence, Hezbollah is being treated with a level of respect no Arab state fighting Israel has ever gotten. You are hearing normal people testify to the good works of the Hezbollah quasi-state.

I mean, this isn't two seconds of news, but detailed interviews with women and children, English speaking kids, testifying to their good works.

The Western public is getting a new view of Israel and the Arabs, and if the Israelis had a clue beyond bombing TV towers, they wouldn't drop another bomb in Beirut and stop shooting up convoys and gas stations. Because you have American reporters running from Israel bombs and American citizens trapped there and Hezbollah is getting a hearing. And that has already forced Bush's hand in sending Condi.

Israel and Bush bet they could destroy Hezbollah with shock and awe. That isn't happening. So what do they do next?

posted by Steve @ 12:06:00 AM

12:06:00 AM

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