07 January 2008

Should Bush Come To Lebanon?

Bush May Add Lebanon, Iraq To Stops on Trip

-(wallstreetjournal): President Bush takes off Tuesday on a much-anticipated trip to Israel, the Persian Gulf states and Egypt.

Or is it Lebanon and Iraq?

With some details of his mission still conspicuously under wraps, speculation is growing in Washington that Mr. Bush's itinerary might include one or more unscheduled stops along the way.

The official nine-day itinerary begins in Israel on Wednesday and continues with the Palestinian stronghold of Ramallah in the West Bank; Kuwait; Bahrain; the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi; Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. It is Mr. Bush's first trip as president to Israel or Saudi ...

-(BDC): The Lebanese will not forget Bush's stance during the War on Lebanon in 2006, where not only did he support the Israeli onslaught, but he actively sent the Israeli army ammunitions.

-(bostonglobe): WITH THE Annapolis conference and the Paris fund-raising effort to aid the Palestinians behind us, the Middle East peace process is now in need of constant vigilance. President Bush will visit the region this week, but it is Condoleezza Rice who will be looked upon to provide a guiding hand.
more stories like this

* Highlights of Bush's trip to the Mideast
* Donors pledge $7.4 billion in aid to Palestinians
* Rice hopes Israeli building will not "cloud" talks
* Israeli minister rebuffs Rice on settlement homes
* Rice faults Israel over settlement building plans

The new peace effort is very much her baby. A look at the war in Lebanon in 2006, and Rice's management of it, provides some clues to the challenges ahead.

In his recently released study of Rice, "The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy," Glenn Kessler, a Washington Post correspondent, recounts a memorable episode from that conflict. Two weeks into the fighting, with no end in sight, the world and the region were agitated and the Italians convened a high-level conference. Rice refused to endorse an immediate cease-fire, arguing instead for a more permanent change to the status quo in Lebanon.

Kessler describes a sweltering midsummer Roman conference hall, the image of a "bedraggled Rice . . . wiping beads of sweat from her forehead" being splashed across the world.

According to Kessler, "Rice did not look strong or in control; she looked in over her head."

That image was banished at Annapolis. Rice looked the very embodiment of poise, stature, and accomplishment.

To be effective in peace however, she will need to learn three lessons from her handling of the Lebanon war:

That fragile Arab polities are best stabilized by reconciliation, not confrontation.

That US diplomatic leadership should be timely and persistent, not sluggish and sporadic.

That the special relationship between Jerusalem and Washington should be used to help Israel climb down from precarious ladders, not scramble further up them.

The war in Lebanon was supposed to be about handing Hezbollah a crushing defeat and reshaping that country's politics. Things didn't work out that way. Lebanon is deeply divided, and exacerbating that division was counterproductive. Political progress will necessitate difficult compromises.

The reality for the Palestinians is somewhat similar. A sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace cannot be constructed on the edifice of Palestinian division. Hamas should be offered incentives to join the process.

Hamas is important not only because it poses the threat of violence, but also because it is potentially capable of bestowing greater legitimacy on a fragile peace effort, making possible the implementation of any deal that is reached.

Rice must remember Lebanon, pursue a Gaza-Israel cease-fire, and encourage reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas...

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.