Hizbollah poll defeat is cold comfort for Israel

The victory of the pro-American “March 14” coalition in this week’s Lebanese elections has been greeted with relief across the world, but for Israel, is merely the lesser of two evils.

To be sure, a Hizbollah victory would have been disastrous, lending legitimacy to an organisation dedicated to Israel’s destruction, putting it in control of Lebanon’s army and other organs of state — and bringing Syrian and Iranian influence ever closer to Israel’s borders.
But the victory of the Sunni, Christian and Druze coalition — with 71 seats out of 128 — has its costs. With a pro-Western government in power, there will be pressure on Israel from the US and Europe to make concessions to strengthen the “moderates”.

Expect to hear new calls for Israel to leave the Shebaa Farms and Ghajar — strategic areas on the Israeli-Lebanese border which are still disputed. In addition, there will be pressure on both France and America to sell heavy weaponry to Lebanon in order to strengthen the Lebanese army. The balance of power would change if they fell into the wrong hands.

Meanwhile, Hizbollah may not have won — but it did not exactly lose either. The terror organisation actually got 100,000 more votes than the victors. It will most likely be part of the coalition, and possibly retain its power of veto over all legislation. And crucially, it remains a state-within-a-state — no government will disarm it of its guns and 40,000 rockets, and it has already shown that it is uncontrollable by any domestic force.

There is, however, one ray of hope. If President Ahmadinejad loses the Iranian election this weekend, Hizbollah will lose its main sponsor and cheerleader. This would be a significant blow. In a sense, the Lebanese elections will not really be settled until the Iranian polls close.

    Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010