Middle East questions for David Waldner

We recently sat down with David Waldner, a UVA professor of comparative politics and the author of the book State Building and Late Development, to try and make sense of the current dust-up between Israel and Lebanon. Hostilities in the region exploded when members of the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on July 12. Israel, in turn, began a bombing campaign that has devastated much of Lebanon’s infrastructure, killed hundreds of people and sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes. Hezbollah has retaliated with crude rocket attacks against northern Israel, killing dozens and sowing panic there, as well. Here’s some of what Waldner had to say.

C-VILLE: World leaders have been calling for a cease-fire and for the deployment of international peacekeeping forces. Given the conditions set forth by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—that the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers be returned, that Hezbollah leave the south, that the Lebanese army create a buffer zone along the border and that Hezbollah be disarmed—is a cease-fire likely to happen?
David Waldner: Absolutely not. Israel has stated categorically that, as you just pointed out, a number of conditions must be met before a cease-fire. I think the Israeli and the American calculation is that, were Israel to agree to a cease-fire short of receiving something very close to their demands, it would be a huge victory for Hezbollah. Hezbollah would have drawn Israel to a stalemate.

Will Israel likely face any U.N. sanctions for its role in the conflict?
On the Security Council, the U.S. will always be the veto player. There’s absolutely no way that the Bush Administration and John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., will agree to any sanctions against Israel. U.S. support for Israel is almost complete in this situation.

Will Lebanon?
I suspect that, in general, world opinion is supportive of the Lebanese position here. Some people would say “you can’t hold the Lebanese as a whole responsible for what Hezbollah is doing.”

Israel’s bombing campaign has destroyed much of Lebanon’s infrastructure. Where will this put Lebanon’s economy?
Lebanon is still slowly recovering from all the economic damage it incurred during the civil war of the 1970s and 1980s. Without large-scale international assistance, I think we’re going to see Lebanon set back at least another decade.

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