Thursday, 17 July 2008

Nasralla wins


Hassan Nasrallah makes a brief appearence with Qantar.

Syrian political analyst Sami Moubayed sets out the ballance sheet of the exchange for Asia Times:

The biggest winner by far is Nasrallah. The man has surrounded himself with something of a superhuman aura in the eyes of millions in the Arab world. For the past eight years he has delivered nothing but success to his constituency.

Now he boasts of a long record: getting the Israelis to leave South Lebanon in 2000, the prisoner exchange of 2004, the Israeli defeat of 2006, and more recently the overpowering of his opponents in Lebanese domestic politics in May.

This led to the election of Suleiman — a friend of Hezbollah — as president and gave a greater representation, with veto-power, to the Hezbollah-led opposition.

And now the exchange, which leaves no Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.

Few can deny Nasrallah's achievements, and Arabs from every end of the political spectrum (even those loyal to Saudi Arabia, which is not too fond of his powerbase, considering him an extension of Iranian influence) have showered him with praise.

Former adversaries such as Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze, called on their followers to celebrate July 16 and mark the day as a national holiday so that all Lebanese, regardless of sect, can honor what Nasrallah has done.

And the losers ...
Mahmud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, has now been put in the embarrassing position that Nasrallah has been able to release more Palestinians than both he and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, were ever able to achieve with Israel.

Nasrallah has been challenging the authority of Abbas — without knowing it — since Arafat's death in 2004.

Nasrallah had allied himself with the Palestinian uprising of September 2000, coordinating with anti-Arafat groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and abducting Israeli soldiers in October 2000 to pressure then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to change course with regard to the Palestinians.

That endeared him to thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. He was young, charismatic and an accomplished war hero who never spoke of defeat, whereas Abbas was aged, ailing, compromising and had never obtained — or strived for — a war medal in his life.

If Nasrallah is able to bring Qantar back to Lebanon, then the least Abbas could do is to work for the release of Marwan Barghouti, the charismatic West Bank leader from Fatah, from Israeli jails.

Other losers are hardliners in the Israeli government who argued against the deal, claiming that it would encourage more violence against Israel and "proves that terrorism pays, and pays well".

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