New evidence can have value in Lebanon

The March 14 Alliance's reaction was interestingly strong, as if it is attempting to divert the tribunal's attention from considering Israel as a suspect in the assassination.

The evidence that the Hizbollah secretary general Hassan Nasralah presented in his press conference on August 9 went beyond self-defence to offer new leads that might serve the international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese president Rafiq al Hariri, commented Hassan Younes for the Qatari daily Al Watan. The March 14 Alliance's reaction was interestingly strong, as if it is attempting to divert the tribunal's attention from considering Israel as a suspect in the assassination. This fact might open doors to suspecting that whoever dares to oppose investigations against the Israelis might be seen as their accomplice in the crime.

"The problem is not related  to whether or not to condemn Hizbullah for the assassination, but to find out who was actually behind it." Mr Nasrallah gave the investigators enough leads to help them go forward in their examination of other facts. Yet, these leads "are not enough to present a definite case against Israel, though they are enough to start investigations into them," said Fadya Kiwan, the director of the department of political science at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. This will open new horizons in the investigations that were suspiciously ignored before.

"The fourth anniversary of the end of the Israeli aggression on Lebanon has almost gone unnoticed this year," comments Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese newspaper Assafir. "Of course, it is not a Lebanese or an Arab tradition to consider the end of wars an occasion to celebrate, as does the rest of the world."

The beginning of wars perhaps gives more reason to celebrate than theirs end, because no military conflict whatsoever yields clear, definite outcomes, as most of the time they are a subject of yet another fresh dispute. In the case of the Israeli assault on Lebanon, which officially stopped at eight in the morning of August, 2006, it was more like a ceasefire truce mediated by the international community via the UN Security Council.

There is yet a narrow margin for Lebanese to manoeuvre, but it remains much wider compared with the situation of other Arabs, especially the Palestinians. Theoretically, Lebanon faces two choices, neither of which is desirable. It can either stay in a state of war, or engage in broad normalisation process with the Israelis. Both scenarios could turn the country into a backyard of Israel. Thus, retaining the narrow margin between war and peace is the fate of Lebanon, which would allow the Lebanese to identify their own interests away from the influence of external powers.

"Whether the direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel are held or delayed, there are basic facts on the ground that cannot be ignored at a time when the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has been under constant pressure to engage in talks," noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial. Many expect negotiations will soon be launched, an enterprise in which Arabs appear weak and left with fewer cards to play with.

First of all, it is very clear that Israel is playing a new game aimed at luring Arabs and Palestinians into a process of normalisation by suggesting a number of empty  promises to the Palestinian Authority. Israel's show of its desire to engage in negotiation is, in fact, a media tactic to serve the government's agenda inside Israel by letting public opinion believe that it is willing to achieve peace in accordance with international resolutions.

And while the Arab League is talking about an "accepted formula" to enter into direct talks, Israel has rejected all proposals that can serve as a basis for a possible start. These indicators reflect the unchanging nature of the occupation policy of the Israeli government, which ignores the many international calls for finding ways to help the Palestinians enter confidently into the talks that would lead them to establish their independent state.

The Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki's visit to the Kurdistan region of Iraq will pose questions abouty what the Kurds can offer him after he failed to get the Shiites on his side, commented Farouq Mustapha in the London-based Arab newspaper Al Hayat. According to sources close to Mr al Maliki, the Kurds promised him that a broad coalition would be formed between his party and Kurds. The latter, however, denied such a statement, as they have shown no inclination towards any party.

"The consultations between the Iraqi leaders are undoubtedly an important and very welcome step toward solving the issue, because most political forces reject the idea of holding new elections as a solution to the present stalemate." The debate reflects a new culture of dialogue that has been nonexistent so far. The Kurds can play a prominent role in synthesising an optimal political atmosphere thanks to their good relations with various parties. Although they lack the power they used to have in the past, the Kurds can still engage positively with other political constituents to direct Iraq in the post-US withdrawal phase.

* Digest compiled by Ketoum Ahfid