by Peace with Syria, in Israeli eyes, would inexorably lead to pressure to make peace with the Palestinians. That is most certainly not part of Israel's agenda. 5. Fifth, pressure has been growing in the US Administration to start talking to Syria, if only to try to recruit it to Washington's "war on terror." Gemayel's death, and Syria's blame for it, strengthens the case of the neoconservatives in Washington – Israel's allies in the Administration – whose star had begun to wane.
Read here full article by Jonathan Cook
Commentators and columnists are agreed aare Pierre Gemayel's assassination must have been the handiwork of Syria. His Christian Phalangists have been long-time allies of Israel. He was one of the leading figures in the Lebanese government's anti-Syria faction.
President Bush thinks so too. Case, apparently, settled.
Unlike my colleagues, I do not claim to know who killed Gemayel.
It seems, however, as if the last possibility cannot be entertained in polite society.
So let me offer a few impolite thoughts.
Suspicion falls automatically on Syria because the Christian Phalangists are one of Syria's main enemies in Lebanon.
Partly as a result, Christian Phalangists have opposed recent attempts by Syria's main ally in Lebanon, the Shi'ite group Hezbollah, to win a greater share of political power. They are also part of the majority in the pro-American government of Fuad Siniora that supports a United Nations tribunal to try the killers of Rafik Hariri, an anti-Syria politician and leader of the Sunni Muslim community, who was blown up by a car bomb more than a year and a half ago.
After all six Shi'ite ministers walked out of the Siniora cabinet two weeks ago, and now with Gemayel's assassination, the government is close to collapse, and with it the tribunal that everyone expects to implicate Syria in Hariri's murder.
If Syria can "bump off" another two cabinet ministers and the government loses its quorum, Syria will be off the hook – or so runs the logic of Western observers.
But does this "evidence" make Syria the prime suspect or the fallguy?
How will Syria's wider interests be affected by the killing, and what about Israel's interests in Gemayel's death – or rather, its interests in Hezbollah or Syria being blamed for Gemayel's death?
In truth, Israel will benefit in numerous ways from the tensions provoked by the assassination, as the popular and angry rallies in Beirut against Syria and Hezbollah are proving.
Hezbollah's popularity and credibility rose so sharply that the leaders of the Shi'ite community had been hoping to cash in on that success domestically by demanding more power. That is one of the reasons why the six Shi'ite ministers walked out of Siniora's cabinet.
The system of political representation in Lebanon was rigged decades ago by the former colonial power, France, to ensure that power is shared between the Christian and Sunni Muslim communities.
The Shi'ite Muslims, the country's largest religious sect, have been kept on the margins of the system ever since, effectively disenfranchised.
With their recent military victory, this was the moment Hezbollah hoped to make a breakthrough and force political concessions from the Sunnis and Christians, concessions that indirectly would have benefitted Syria.
With Gemayel's death, the chances of that now look slim indeed.
Hezbollah, and by extension Syria, are the losers.
Israel, which wants Hezbollah weakened, is the winner.
There is a real danger that fighting will return to Lebanon's streets. Hezbollah's underground cadres who took on the Israeli war machine will doubtless have to come out of hiding and will pay a price against other well-armed militias.
The benefits for Syria are at best mixed.
A possible benefit is that a bloody civil war may increase the pressure on the United States to talk to Syria, and possibly to invite it to take a leading role again in stabilizing Lebanon, as it did during the last civil war. But,it may have the opposite effect, encouraging the US to isolate Syria further.
Conversely, civil war may pose serious threats to Syrian interests – and offer significant benefits to Israel.
If Hezbollah's energies are seriously depleted in a civil war, Israel may be in a much better position to attack Lebanon again.
Almost everyone in Israel is agreed that the Israeli army is itching to settle the score with Hezbollah in another round of fighting.
This way it may get the next war it wants on much better terms; or Israel may be able to fight a proxy war against Hezbollah by aiding the Shi'ite group's opponents.
Certainly one of the main goals of Israel's bombing campaign over the summer, when much of Lebanon's infrastructure was destroyed, appeared to be to provoke such a civil war.
It was widely reported at the time that Israel's generals hoped that the devastation would provoke the Christian, Sunni and Druze communities to rise up against Hezbollah.
The US exploited Hariri's death, and the widespread protests that followed, to evict Syria from Lebanon.
Syria's removal from the scene also paved the way for Israel's assault this summer, which would have been far more dangerous to the region had Syria still been in Lebanon.
Gemayel's assassination, however, has dramatically revived interest in the question of who killed Hariri and brings Syria firmly back into the spotlight.
None of this benefits Syria, but no doubt Israel will be able to take some considerable pleasure in Damascus's discomfort.
With it would be resolved the fraught question of the Shebaa Farms, still occupied by Israel but which Hezbollah and Syria claim as Lebanese territory that should have been returned in Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
The status of the Shebaa Farms has been one of the main outstanding areas of dispute between Israel and Hezbollah.
President Assad of Syria has been hinting openly that he is ready to discuss Israel's return of the Golan Heights on better terms for Israel than it has ever before been offered.
According to reports in the Israeli media, Assad is prepared to demilitarize the Golan and turn it into a national park that would be open to Israelis. He would probably also not insist on a precise return to the 1967 border, which includes the northern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.
Traditionally Israel's leaders balked at this idea, and provoked popular fears by conjuring up the vision of Assad's father, Hafez, dipping his feet in the lake.
But if negotations on the Golan are desperately sought by the young Assad, Israel shows no interest in exploring the option.
The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has repeatedly ruled out talking to Damascus. That is for several reasons:
Gemayel's death, and Syria being blamed for it, forces Damascus back into the fold of the "Axis of Evil," and forestalls any threat of talks on the Golan.
The US could desperately do with local local help in managing its occupation of Iraq.
Key allies such as Britain's Tony Blair are pushing strongly for engagement with Syria, both to further isolate Iran – the possible target of either a US or Israeli strike against its presumed ambitions for nuclear weapons – and to clear the path to negotiations with the Palestinians.
They can now argue convincingly that Syria is unreformed and unreformable.
Such an outcome helps to avert the danger, from Israel's point of view, that White House doves might win the argument for befriending Syria.
For all these reasons, we should be wary of assuming that Syria is the party behind Gemayel's death – or the only regional actor meddling in Lebanon.
Peace with Syria, in Israeli eyes, would inexorably lead to pressure to make peace with the Palestinians. That is most certainly not part of Israel's agenda.
5. Fifth, pressure has been growing in the US Administration to start talking to Syria, if only to try to recruit it to Washington's "war on terror."
Gemayel's death, and Syria's blame for it, strengthens the case of the neoconservatives in Washington – Israel's allies in the Administration – whose star had begun to wane.