What war has wrought

IT MAY NOT be possible to foresee the long-term results of this summer's war in Lebanon, but some of the near-term consequences are beginning to emerge. As often happens, it is the war's unintended consequences that seem most telling.

In Israel, it is clear that the war has done political damage to the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Because of the public's dismay at the conduct of the war, Olmert has felt obliged to renounce the central plank of his original platform, his so -called convergence plan. That was a plan to remove some 70,000 West Bank settlers from outlying settlements and to relocate them in a few large settlements that Israel hopes to retain in any eventual peace accord. Since the convergence plan was the principal reason-for-being of Olmert's Kadima Party, his renunciation of the plan leaves him in a postwar condition of political weakness.

Although Palestinian leaders had no enthusiasm for Olmert's idea of a unilateral and partial withdrawal from the West Bank, the principle behind the plan was crucial to their hopes for ending the Israeli occupation. When justifying his convergence concept, Olmert had acknowledged that Israel's security is not enhanced by holding on to settlements and clinging to the delusion of a Greater Israel. Olmert's postwar abandonment of the convergence plan leaves the situation of Palestinians more uncertain than ever.

Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah also confront unintended consequences of the war in Lebanon. For all its claims of a great victory in standing up to Israel's military machine, Hezbollah has been pushed away from Lebanon's border with Israel and has incurred the resentment of other factions in Lebanon that accuse Hezbollah of placing the interests of Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad before the national interests of Lebanon.

Even more significant are the regional realignments likely to ensue from the war. Everything that leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have been warning about concerning Iran's projection of power through Shi'ite factions in Iraq and Lebanon appears validated by the recent war and the propaganda surrounding it. Assad has already been compelled to backtrack from his rhetorical claim that the war in Lebanon revealed other Arab leaders as ``half-men." Those leaders are almost certain to draw their own conclusions about their need to form alliances to resist the expansion of Iranian influence.

The ideal unintended consequences of the war would be one set of negotiations leading to a peace treaty between Israel and Syria and another producing peaceful coexistence between Israel and a Palestinian state. The alternative is more war and more suffering. 

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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