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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Arab world salutes Halutz

Guy Bechor 
Arab world salutes Halutz

Arab talkbacks show admiration for army chief's decision, slam Hizbullah
Published:  01.18.07, 17:43

Dan Halutz's resignation caught the Arab world by surprise, particularly after the question of whether Hizbullah won the last war or not was ostensibly decided among the Arab public. The prevailing view today, six months after the war, is that Hizbullah did not win, and wasn't defeated. This view is largely prevalent among leaders, among the large Sunni institutions, and among the more educated strata of Arab society in general.
Then all of a sudden Dan Halutz's resignation came along and ostensibly reopened the discourse in wake of what appears to be Israel's ongoing quandary. This debate of course impacts the level of deterrence Israel creates and the questions pertaining to perceived power and weakness in the Middle East.
Formal responses are not expected to be made by key Arab leaders, who would have preferred this war had never taken place, because it strengthened their sworn enemies, so to speak – the Shiites and political Islam. Deep in their hearts, they had hoped that Israel would strike a heavy blow at these forces, and in so doing cut them down to size. This didn't happen, and therefore they would do well not to refer to the war in general or to Halutz's resignation specifically.
Hizbullah and the Islamic organizations were quick to announce Wednesday that Halutz's resignation presents clear evidence of their victory. However, it is this bragging that actually demonstrates the extent of their demise in local opinion polls, so much so that they were forced to take pride in such a belated resignation.
Lesson for entire Arab world
On the Arab Internet, visited by millions of surfers, Halutz's resignation set the stage for another development with Hizbullah regarding the arguments pertaining to its victory, and not for anti-Israeli celebration. There were, however, surfers who expressed their satisfaction at the resignation, but the lion's share of surfers visiting key news sites expressed surprising readiness for soul searching.
 "Arab logic is commendable," wrote a surfer from a Cairo neighborhood. "The Israelis distanced Hizbullah from its borders, killed 1,200 of its combatants, destroyed its infrastructure and positioned the Israel Defense Force in the north. Is this deemed a victory?"
Another surfer wrote a long article in which he explained why it is Israel that won the war, later adding: "Ask the Lebanese people who lost this war. They know the truth all too well." A third surfer, apparently from Yemen, wrote that Hizbullah's popularity plummeted to almost zero in his country.
"Only Hizbullah claims that this was a divine victory," said another response.
However, an even greater surprise appeared on the Arab Internet: The majority of surfers didn't ridicule Halutz. On the contrary, they expressed understanding and support for his actions. Many wrote that this is a lesson that should be learned by the entire Arab world and that when mistakes are made they should be rectified. Another surfer wrote that the ability to recognize faults is a virtue, and another from Egypt noted: "If only the Arab leadership would learn from Israel."

"Well done to democracy and democratic states," wrote a surfer, "when will they realize here too that a failed leadership must go?" Another wrote: "What's the connection between Halutz's resignation and Hizbullah's claim of victory. Is anyone willing to explain that?" And another response: "It's about time we learned about responsibility from our enemies, no one is above the law and national interest is above any personal interest. If only this was the situation in the Arab world."
Another surfer wrote: "I respect democracy that is implemented during difficult times." Another views it as a true Israeli achievement. "If only our failed leaders would learn that when they make mistakes, they have to step down."

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