Mahmoud Sabit at PostGlobal

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. Sabit also works as a writer and producer of historical documentaries. Close.

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. more »

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In a Fragile Situation, Engage Hamas

This Middle East crisis is different from many before. Israel's decision to engage Lebanon's fragile state and carry out strikes deep within the country is serious. A good first step to defusing what could otherwise be a climactic showdown between regional powers is to talk to the Palestinian leadership, Hamas.

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All Comments (7)

Luke:

A fascinating and well-written article. My chief concern is that the mainstream press, including the so-called 'liberal press' still, in large part, refuses to report the truth about the Israel-Palestine issue. The reports of the capture of Corporal Shalit was a classic example: the overwhelming majority of mainstream media articles portrayed this as a Palestintian-instigated crisis, for which Israel could be forgiven for their response, a response that we have seen has been ludicrously disproportionate. There was never a mention of the actions of the Israelis over the preceding weeks, such as the 8th June assassination of the Head of Security; the June 9th each attack that killed seven; the June 13th missile attack on a Gaza street killing eleven; the June 20th missile attack on a Gaza street that killed three children etc etc etc etc etc. Until our media stop painting Israel as the wounded, retaliatory underdog (with its military machine, the backing of the US and nuclear weapons) what hope is there for Palestine?
If the eloquent Mr Sabit is allowed to carry on reporting things with such insight and experience, perhaps there is hope, but the situation will never change until the populations of countries that support Israel are told the truth about what is being done in their name. Only then will we see pressure for change.

Mahmoud Sabit:

SyWanda;
Many thanks for your comment, I would like address your views;
I think in answer to your question, as Israel has proved on many occasions, military action pays off. In the experience and perception of the Palestinians in dealing with Israel they have discovered that diplomacy, and politics are an exercise in futility. Hamas has a political goal, and this is to engage with Israel through the premise of UN resolution 242. The Palestinians believe that they gave away too much at the Oslo Accords, with little in return, in short they believe that they were fooled by Israel. The Oslo accords were to have changed the dynamic of the Palestinian - Israeli relationship to one of defined steps to arrive at a final settlement between the parties, such final settlement was to supercede UN Resolution 242, as it pertains to the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians now consider that Oslo was undertaken by Israel in bad faith, the continuation of a settlement policy on the West Bank despite the spirit of the Oslo agreements is one of the main factors in this perception. I think it is tragic that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by Israeli extremists at that time, had he lived, the Israelis and the Palestinians would today be on the path of complete normalization. UN Resolution 242 requires that Israel withdraw from all territories acquired through military action following the 1967 War. Most interpretations of this UN resolution believe that this includes both the West Bank and the Golan Heights. It has been 39 years since this resolution was passed, those territories pertaining to Egypt; the Sinai, have been returned, in exchange for a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. However the West Bank and the Golan Heights have as yet not been affected. Essentially, the lesson that Israel has taught the region is that military conquest is rewarding, I believe the Israelis refer to this as 'facts on the ground.' Hamas is in no position to challenge Israel militarily, let alone threaten its existence. For the Arabs in general there is no military option, that option ended with 1967. The 1973 war was fought by President Anwar el Sadat as an exercise in politics and diplomacy pursued through other means, it was not an existential war. Today, Israel's conventional military forces are superior to any military combination that their Arab neighbors can muster. Even if the Arabs prevail in a conventional military confrontation, Israel's arsenal of nuclear weapons renders that unlikely possibility irrelevant. Hamas, through acts of terror, through resistance actions against the Israeli military, through what they see as creating facts on the ground are sending the message that the Israeli's cannot have security without there being justice for the Palestinians. They are engaging in violent acts again as an exercise in politics and diplomacy pursued through other means. They are attempting to strengthen their hand in any future negotiation, to retain the initiative. For the Arab states, they would dearly like to see a final peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, they cannot interfere in dictating to the Palestinians what the form of this settlement should be, that is for the Palestinians themselves to decide.

John; Thank for your thoughtful comment; we should not lose sight of the big picture.
Relying on military action, dismantling Lebanon's infrastructure through constant airstrikes, bludgeoning the Palestinian population of Gaza with helicopter gunships, and mechanized forces is irresponsible and counter-productive in this crucial period in Middle Eastern history. In addition to this the ineffectiveness of the world body to impose a ceasefire, or to approach the problem in an even handed manner, is seriously undermining the neighboring Arab regimes. For they themselves are by thgeir populations as ineffectual and emasculated. This crisis will strengthen the extremist position, already Hezballah is popular amongst many segments of the Arab population, specifically because they confront Israel, and because of the contrast between Hezballah militancy and the supine policies that Arab governments have pursued in face of the aggressive approach of Israel. Ultimately Israel's future and long term survival resides in the Middle East, Israel is here, it is not in Europe, it is not in the USA. It is in their interests to establish friendly relations with their neighbors, for Israel's long term survival the Arabs must become Israel's best friend. The Arab countries themselves have no 'secret agenda' in reference to Israel, and would go along with establishing good relations with the Israeli's. The stumbling block is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, this must be settled in a mutually equitable way, or at least in a way that will enlist the agreement of the Palestinians. The Arab countries cannot afford to normalize relations with Israel until the dispute is settled. They too have their own public opinions to consider. The cards in this dispute are in Israeli hands, already the Palestinian territories are small prison-like enclaves, and the Palestinians have nothing left to give. It is therefore logical that if Israel is sincerely interested in peace, then they should be engaging with the elected representatives of the Palestinian people.
Actions such as what we are witnessing in this attack against what is effectively a defenceless country; Lebanon is not conducive to long term friendly relations.

FedUp:

The tit-for-tat "diplomacy" and back-and-forth nattering is really irrelevant. Israel is a 100 year-old pre-planned invasion and takeover. Nowhere in the world can you find a population that will say, "Sure, take my land. Take my house. Take my car. Do you want my wife, too?" People will always fight to protect their homes from invaders.

Israel is fundamentally wrong. It will not succeed, in the end. The only question is, how many of us will die trying to stop the monster.

John:

I think it is clear that all parties involved -- Israel, Hamas, Hizbollah, Lebanon, Iran, Syria and the US -- are using everything that happens for "wider political aims in the area." It's naive and unproductive to suggest otherwise.

Bob:

I think it is clear that Israel is using the hostiage issues for it wider political aims in the area. This war has nothing to do with the hostages.

John:

I agree with much of what Mahmoud Sabit writes here, though as far as how best to defuse the situation I would go back to his premise: "This crisis is about initiative: Who has the initiative and who is losing the initiative in the region."

If any nation is serious about disengaging Hizbollah, Hamas, their sponsor states and Israel from what may be an ugly collision, the focus has got to be on how to get a single party in this conflict to take a different kind of initiative. This happened with Oslo, which then collapsed under premature celebration when it was, frankly, several steps from completion. But changing how each party views the benefits of seizing a non-violent initiative will be tough.

Within Lebanon, there is a huge opportunity (ironically created by this crisis and by the weakness of Lebanon's civil government) to actively support a frustrated and popular (but fairly weak) opposition, which will go significantly further in delegitimizing Hizbollah than Israel's current tact (which is strengthening Hizbollah's popular support, at least outside of Lebanon).

For that to happen, though, Israel needs to disengage militarily -- something Olmert is not only reluctant to do, but likely sees as capitulation. But if one of Israel's objectives here is to chisel away at Hizbollah, Lebanon needs a breather, and the Lebanese opposition needs a huge amount of immediate support from the U.S. and Europe.

Removing Hizbollah as a significant influence along Israel's border (and potentially within Lebanon) -- or at least reducing its influence -- will do more to ensure Israel's safety and minimize the regional play of Syria and Iran than Israel's current strategy, which is beginning to legitimize Syria and Iran's own strategies of destabilization at the moment.

SYWanda:

As someone who couldn't imagine in a thousand years what it would be like to be in this situation, I would like to ask at what point in the Muslim world doesn't it become a responsibility, a mandate actually, to stop the violence and engage in politics steeped in say, reality? What happened to the whole "two states" thing?

I see a lot more questioning of Israel's actions by other Jews than I do of Hamas' actions by either Palestinians or Muslims.

At some point, Hamas has really got to forget about the whole "Zionist existence" thing and get back into reality. Israel exists, a Palestinian state could exist if the terrorists weren't the major impetus.

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