After the war in Lebanon in 2006, I suggested that it's "impossible to know the long-term benefits of this conflict. There are many that believe the conflict will only fuel more terrorism; I don't believe this is true."
The first positive result of this attitudinal change was the lack of response from Hezbollah to Israel's operation in Gaza. Although there were many who claimed Hezbollah had only grown stronger after the war in 2006, this claim was mostly based on Hezbollah's own propaganda machine. Nothing is quantifiable. Hezbollah CLAIMS it's stronger. Is it? There are reports that it has more rockets. Does it? This has yet to be seen. Is the group more popular? Yes, according to polls, which are notoriously unreliable in the Middle East, and of course, Hezbollah itself.
What IS quantifiable is that there hasn't been a single rocket, or kidnapping attempt by Hezbollah since the end of the war. In fact, when rockets were fired from Lebanon in June 2007 and January 2009, Hezbollah quickly denied responsibility! Say what you will about Israel's failure to destroy Hezbollah, they were still smacked hard enough they have yet to use whatever rockets they have, even as their so-called Palestinian brothers were being bombed in Gaza. They haven't even sought revenge over last February's killing of their number two guy, Imad Mughniyeh, in Syria.
I also proposed that there would positive political repercussions.
I wrote: “Lebanon's sectarian population has always been split, with Christians and Druze generally supporting Israel's efforts to remove militant forces (thousands of Christians actually fled to Israel in 2000 fearing a rise in militant Islam in the south, and possible retribution against Christians who supported Israel after 1982). Shiite Moslems have generally supported or condoned both the PLO and Hezbollah because they see these groups as armies in a larger conflict: Pan-Arabism (until 1982) and Global Jihad (after 1982). I don't believe this current conflict will increase support, and its likely that many Lebanese, of all stripes, will blame Hezbollah for their recklessness (even if they hold Israel responsible for the deaths.) The Arab street traditionally display public support for its leaders and their military exploits, even when privately they may be critical. It's quite possible that Hezbollah will now lose some of the political support they've enjoyed, and their seats in parliament. We'll know with the next election.”
Well, that election has now been held and lo and behold, the Lebanese responded exactly as I expected, voting along sectarian lines while denying Hezbollah the victory it predicted.
Official results issued by the Interior Ministry on Monday confirmed that the March 14 Forces achieved victory in the elections, with 71 seats against 57 seats for the opposition forces. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman expressed his satisfaction over "the transparent elections, and the high spirit of democracy.
The Lebanese parliament will now have to deal with Hezbollah demands to continue the veto vote it earned through violence. It also must continue to deal with Hezbollah's state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon. Nevertheless, election results indicate at least some anger with Hezbollah's partisan politics and continued advocacy of violence against Israel.
Lebanon has suffered through a civil war, a consequence of religious and political fragmentation, but today enjoys some semblance of democracy and normality. Hezbollah's ongoing attempts to derail this balance may yet bear fruit, and the Lebanese would be well-advised to consider the long term benefits of conciliation and compromise. And they should strongly consider extending that attitude toward her southern neighbour, Israel, a move that would further push Hezbollah and its sponsors, Syria and Iran, into the margins, and contribute to the economic and political health of the region.