Nadim Koteich is a Shiite Lebanese reporter that grew up around Nabatieh in south Lebanon. On September 15th he published an article in the “Asharq Al-Awsat” newspaper titled: “When will peace between Israel and Lebanon arrive?”
In his article, Koteich claims that after a peace agreement has been signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and between Israel and Bahrain, it appears that the most logical thing to happen is Lebanon signing one with Israel as well, but Hezbollah will prevent this from happening.
So, is peace between Israel and Lebanon so logical? Is Hezbollah the only problem? Regrettably, this statement is, lightly put, problematic.
Koteich is a very unusual figure in the The Arab media world in general and in Lebanon’s in particular. Despite him being a Shiite from south Lebanon, Koteich is a very raucous opposer of Hezbollah and its supporters. Because of his opinions, statements, and publications, Koteich “relocated” to Saudi Arabia. The reason for this is clear – he knew that continuing his life in Lebanon would be short-lived (pun intended), courtesy of Hezbollah. Seemingly, Hezbollah is patient with and tolerates criticism from its natural opposers in Lebanon, but Hezbollah has zero tolerance and patience for criticism coming from within the Shiite camp, and swiftly silences it.
Koteich’s publications are sometimes correct and even logical, but regrettably have one main problem in their foundation: they are far from being part of the Lebanese consensus in general and the Shiite consensus in particular. Many (non-Shiite) Lebanese people, who see themselves as distinct opposers of Hezbollah, still see Israel as the root of all their problems and still consider Israel illegitimate. The majority of the Lebanese population (Shiites and Sunnis) consider Israel a bitter enemy. The Druze and Christians in Lebanon, whom were Israel’s “natural conversationalists” for years, are today only a minority, and even they are divided, some of them having signed a pact with Hezbollah (President of Lebanon Michel Aoun’s Christian faction and Wiham Wihab’s Druze faction).
As long as Hezbollah sets the tone in Lebanese policy, there will be no progress in relations between the two countries. The formal conflict with the state of Lebanon amounts to the location of the border between the two countries (Shebaa Farms in the east and the maritime border in the west). For Israel, border conflicts are a tactical and solvable matter. However, for Hezbollah, this is an ideological narrative of “resistance.” Even if the state of Lebanon receives everything it wants, Hezbollah will not disarm and will not stop its struggle against Israel.
We all hope that one day, Koteich’s statement will be shared publicly by many Lebanese opinion makers and civilians that live in Lebanon itself. If this will be so, we will know that there really is a chance for peace between Israel and Lebanon. However, today we are very far from it…
*Photo from twitter @NadimKoteich.