Lebanese Prime Minister Hints at Peace Talks with Israel

by Michael J. Totten

The Israeli Prime Minister and the Lebanese Prime Minister both suggested the possibility of peace talks in public.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that peace talks with Beirut were possible, echoing a similar statement made by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "If the Lebanese government continues this way and if Prime Minister Siniora continues with his efforts to bring about a change in Lebanon, I have no doubt that negotiations" with Beirut will lead to formal relations between Israel and Lebanon, he said.

Olmert's comments came as a fragile truce ending a month-long Israeli offensive on Lebanon entered its second week and followed similar comments by Siniora on Sunday.

"I believe that if Israel uses all its senses and thinks wisely, I think it will be the opportunity," Siniora told reporters.

"The opportunity is how to convert what happened in Lebanon - the calamity that was inflicted on Lebanon - to make it an opportunity to move toward real peace," he said.

It’s no surprise that Olmert wants peace with Lebanon. Not for one day, ever, have Israelis wished to be in a state of cold war or hot war with Lebanon.

But, trust me, it’s huge that Seniora is talking about this even if it is only talk.

When I lived in Lebanon even hinting at peace with Israel in public was crossing a serious political red line. During the so-called “national unity” talks a few months ago, when the disarmament of Hezbollah was on the table, the only thing the various Lebanese factions could agree on was that Israel was the enemy. That was it. That was the lowest common denominator. That didn’t work out very well. Placing Israel in the enemy column is no smarter than placing a suicide bomber’s belt around the waist of your country.

Hassan Nasrallah is considered a hero by the idiots of Lebanon. Fouad Seniora is considered a hero by most of the rest. And by that I mean the majority.

An actual peace treaty won’t likely follow this war. The odds that Hezbollah would accept it are painfully small. They almost certainly will sabotage peace talks if negotiations get started. But the fact that this can even be discussed at all, and by the head of the state, really is something.

I spent a lot of time in Lebanon, and some time in Israel. The people of these two countries are natural allies, with a similar set of values, with a strikingly similar culture, and with the same list of enemies. Lebanon is perhaps the only Arab country that has the possibility of having a warm peace, rather than a cold “peace,” with Israel. It’s not likely to come about soon. But it will happen when Hezbollah surrenders to Lebanon and the world becomes a more intelligent place than it is.