From Conflict Management to Conflict Resolution

Courtesy Reuters


The recent fighting in the Levant presents a fundamental challenge for U.S. policy toward the Middle East -- but also an opportunity to move from conflict management to conflict resolution. The United States should seize this moment to transform the cease-fire in the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict into a step toward a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Doing so would facilitate the marginalization of the forces of Islamic radicalism and enhance the prospects for regional security and political, economic, and social progress.

The Hezbollah-Israeli confrontation has further proved what should already have been painfully clear to all: there is no viable military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even with its military superiority, Israel cannot achieve security by force alone or by unilateral withdrawal from occupied territories. Nor can Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and similar groups destroy Israel. Peace can come only from negotiated agreements that bind both sides.

Hezbollah may have ignited the spark that set off this latest confrontation, but it is not the root cause. The fighting was the combined result of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict and the struggle between the forces of moderation and those of extremism within the Muslim world -- two issues that are linked by the radicals' exploitation of the Arab-Israeli conflict for their own political ends. U.S. policy in the region should thus focus both on trying to promote a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute and on helping Muslim moderates by facilitating political and economic reform across the Middle East.


The crisis on the Israeli-Lebanese border this summer erupted in an already tense environment. On June 25, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier, which reignited fighting on the Israeli-Palestinian front. When Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12, it precipitated a strong Israeli military reaction, which, by his own admission, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had not anticipated.

The Hezbollah-Israeli war lasted 34 days, with major Israeli incursions into Lebanon and the firing of some 4,000 Hezbollah rockets. The fighting resulted in

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