Magazine article Newsweek International

Shadows of the Peacemakers

Magazine article Newsweek International

Shadows of the Peacemakers

Article excerpt

Hizbullah worries Assad, and Barak could cut a deal

The last thing Ehud Barak needs is more bloodshed in the north. Israel's prime minister-elect has given himself a one-year deadline to bring the troops home from their 21-year stint in southern Lebanon. Unfortunately for the retired general, not everyone involved in the conflict shares his eagerness for peace. The landslide winner of the May election had not even taken the oath of office last week when his campaign promises began threatening to unravel into chaos.

The escalating exchange of heavy firepower killed at least two Israeli civilians and nine Lebanese. It began with an artillery assault on a village in southern Lebanon, an alleged stronghold of Hizbullah, the anti- Israel guerrilla army. The artillery belonged to the South Lebanon Army, a militia group armed and funded by the Israeli armed forces. Rather than striking back at the SLA, Hizbullah retaliated with a barrage of Katyusha rockets fired at Israeli targets in Galilee. The Hizbullah attack killed two people and provoked Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's outgoing prime minister, to order the heaviest airstrikes on Lebanon in three years. Israeli jets bombed bridges, power stations and other targets around Beirut, plunging most of the Lebanese capital into darkness. At the weekend, a convoy of Israeli tanks was sent to the border. Meanwhile Barak could do nothing but deny any role in Netanyahu's decision to launch an attack--and pray he can get his government assembled before worse harm is done.

In some ways the region's prospects for peace have seldom looked brighter. Al Hayat, the influential London-based Arabic-language newspaper, ran an extraordinary pair of interviews last week with the two men best situated to achieve such a breakthrough: Barak and Hafez Assad. …

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