Only we're allowed
After Tuesday's border clash, Israel will continue to ignore UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.
By Gideon Levy
Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. Scandalous. Word is, they have a brigade commander who's determined to protect his country's sovereignty. Scandalous.
The explanation here was that he's "indoctrinating his troops" - only we're allowed to do that, of course - and that this was "the spirit of the commander" and that he's "close to Hezbollah." The nerve.
And now that we've recited ad nauseum the explanations of Israel Defense Forces propaganda for what happened Tuesday at the northern border, the facts should also be looked at.
On Tuesday morning, Israel requested "coordination" with UNIFIL to carry out another "exposing" operation on the border fence. UNIFIL asked the IDF to postpone the operation, because its commander is abroad. The IDF didn't care. UNIFIL won't stop us.
At noon the tree-cutters set out. The Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers shouted at them to stop. In Lebanon they say their soldiers also fired warning shots in the air. If they did, it didn't stop the IDF.
The tree branches were cut and blood was shed on both sides of the border. Shed in vain.
True, Israel maintains that the area across the fence is its territory, and UNIFIL officially confirmed that yesterday. But a fence is a fence: In Gaza it's enough to get near the fence for us to shoot to kill. In the West Bank the fence's route bears no resemblance to the Green Line, and still Palestinians are forbidden from crossing it.
In Lebanon we made different rules: the fence is just a fence, we're allowed to cross it and do whatever we like on the other side, sometimes in sovereign Lebanese territory. We can routinely fly in Lebanese airspace and sometimes invade as well.
This area was under Israeli occupation for 18 years, without us ever acknowledging it. It was an occupation no less brutal than the one in the territories, but whitewashed well. "The security zone," we called it. So now, as well, we can do what we like.
But suddenly there was a change. How did our analysts put it? Recently there's been "abnormal firing" at Israeli aircraft. After all, order must be maintained: We're allowed to fly in Lebanese airspace, they are not permitted to shoot.
But Tuesday's incident, which was blown out of proportion here as if it were cause for a war that only the famed Israeli "restraint" prevented, should be seen in its wider context. For months now the drums of war have been beating here again. Rat-a-tat, danger, Scuds from Syria, war in the north.
No one asks why and wherefore, it's just that summer's here, and with it our usual threats of war. But a UN report published this week held Israel fully responsible for creating this dangerous tension.
In this overheated atmosphere the IDF should have been careful when lighting its matches. UNIFIL requests a delay of an operation? The area is explosive? The work should have been postponed. Maybe the Lebanese Army is more determined now to protect its country's sovereignty - that is not only its right, but its duty - and a Lebanese commander who sees the IDF operating across the fence might give an order to shoot, even unjustifiably.
Who better than the IDF knows the pattern of shooting at any real or imagined violation? Just ask the soldiers at the separation fence or guarding Gaza. But Israel arrogantly dismissed UNIFIL's request for a delay.
It's the same arrogance behind the demand that the U.S. and France stop arming the Lebanese military. Only our military is allowed to build up arms. After years in which Israel demanded that the Lebanese Army take responsibility for what is happening in southern Lebanon, it is now doing so and we've changed our tune. Why? Because it stopped behaving like Israel's subcontractor and is starting to act like the army of a sovereign state.
And that's forbidden, of course. After the guns fall silent, the cry goes up again here to strike another "heavy blow" against Lebanon to "deter" it - maybe some more of the destruction that was inflicted on Beirut's Dahiya neighborhood.
Three Lebanese killed, including a journalist, are not enough of a response to the killing of our battalion commander. We want more. Lebanon must learn a lesson, and we will teach it.
And what about us? We don't have any lessons to learn. We'll continue to ignore UNIFIL, ignore the Lebanese Army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country's sovereignty.