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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Debate IV: Israeli and Lebanese
A Lebanese man in Beirut and an Israeli living in the border town of Shlomi exchange e-mails on the prospects for peace after the ceasefire. This is the fourth instalment of their correspondence.

SALEEM KHOURY, BEIRUT, LEBANON

Saleem Khoury

Dear Gordon,

I hope you and your family are well and safe.

I am glad the world convinced the Israeli army that fighting Hezbollah was a lost cause. They destroyed rocket launchers and attacked bases but they couldn't kill the will and beliefs of the Lebanese people.

If this war has done anything, it is only to create more animosity and hatred.

However, I think the ceasefire will last for quite a long time.

My country is destroyed: 1,000 people killed and thousands injured, 15,000 housing units are destroyed, 130 bridges demolished.

Our economy is in a shambles, but Hezbollah fighters were able to launch around 200 rockets on the last day before the ceasefire.

What this war has done is destroy the image of Israel's unbeaten army.

Hezbollah is 10 times stronger

We are now where we started: Israel still has the prisoners and our land, and Hezbollah still have the two Israeli young soldiers.

Hezbollah fighters were able to hold their posts for 30 days of continuous fighting against a very strong army. Now they have started their humanitarian job finding decent housing for the displaced people and clearing the rubble.

The pride this war has given Hezbollah is beyond belief.

If another war happens more fighters will be available, with more endurance and stronger resistance.

Israel's plan is 23 years old; they thought they were fighting the PLO, which was built as an army; but Hezbollah is a community: "a mother, a father and a child" all fighting and supporting the cause.

Hezbollah is 10 times stronger. I believe this war will be a turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is not a conflict between states any more it is a conflict between people; it is a deeper wound.

Maybe Israel signed a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan. But the killing of Arab children and mothers made everybody wonder - where are we going?

The new Middle East is already tarnished with children's blood and farmers' sweat. It is about time Israel gave the Arabs their legitimate rights.

Yours,

Saleem

GORDON ORR, SHLOMI, ISRAEL

Dear Saleem,

Yes, we came through unharmed. We had rockets falling to the left of us, and rockets to the right, and our next-door neighbour was killed. But we made it.

I fail to follow your logic, and I am amazed that you see no fault with the Hezbollah.

I fail to understand how those same Lebanese who left their homes as a result of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah's provocative actions now thank him for allowing them to return.

I agree with you, we did underestimate Hezbollah. But who thought that they would spend six years building up stocks of thousands of rockets, with warheads packed with metal ballbearings, to inflict more damage on civilian targets?

These are not weapons of self defence - their only aim is to inflict terror on civilian populations.

So what should we do? Abrogate our responsibility to protect our population - whenever they decide that the time has come to attack us - as apparently your government has?

The Hezbollah community - "a mother, a father and a child" - has only one aim: not the social requirements of the Lebanese, but the ultimate destruction of Israel.

When Hezbollah feel they have sufficient strength... they may not wait for elections

And yes, I agree that the devastation of Lebanon is appalling.

But if those Lebanese who opposed Syria's presence in Lebanon had crossed the border, murdered Syrian soldiers and kidnapped others; I doubt if you or anyone else would still be alive to debate Syria's response.

And I must ask, did you or the Lebanese government denounce the slaughter of Maronite Christians when Muslims declared holy Jihad in 1975 [in the Lebanese civil war] and tried to exterminate your fellow countrymen?

Did you demand international intervention when your neighbours in Syria decimated the town of Hama [in 1982] and killed thousands of other Muslims in the process?

Did you demand a halt to the fighting [in the 1980s] between Hezbollah's mentor Iran and her neighbour Iraq, lasting eight years (not one month) and costing tens of thousands of lives?

But why would you, when Israel cannot be blamed?

Israel is a democracy. If we feel that the government was wrong, it will pay the price at the next election.

But in Lebanon, when Hezbollah feel they have sufficient strength, they may not wait for elections. They may take over the government by force of the arms that they are refusing to relinquish. And if they do, the fault will be that of the Lebanese, not of Israel.

Who will you complain to then, when the country is ruled by Muslim law, and your wife is forced to wear a burkha ?

In a doubtful hope that the ceasefire holds,

Gordon






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