Is the ‘Implication Strategy’ Back?
In the late sixties, two competing strategies for dealing with the Palestinian cause and the Israeli question collided. The first initially emerged from the milieu of the Palestinian resistance and was formulated by one of Fatah’s senior leaders at the time, Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), who dubbed it the “implication strategy:” resistance groups launch military operations or rockets at Israel from behind its borders with neighboring Arab countries. Israel responds by directing fierce strikes on these countries, and the latter is thereby forced to respond to Israel’s response. That is how Arab countries became embroiled in the fight against Israel, and all of them shifted from a state of peace to a state of war.
The second strategy could be called avoiding implication. Shortly after the defeat of June 1967, Gamal Abdel Nasser, with his shift from “liberating Palestine” to “reclaiming the occupied territories,” founded it. In essence, the strategy is to separate countries from one another and draw lines of demarcation between their causes. After UN Resolution 242 was ratified towards the end of that year and the 1969 Rogers Project, the irreconcilability of the two strategies turned into a media and political war waged in conjunction with skirmishes between the two camps in Jordan.
Developments since have worked in the second strategy’s favor in a myriad of ways: on the one hand, the Palestinian resistance found itself at the center of two civil wars, one in Jordan (1970) and another in Lebanon (1975), until the 1982 Israeli invasion pushed them far from the borders of the Jewish state. On the other hand, all the Arab countries opted not to “implicate” themselves in direct confrontations with the Israelis. Egypt and Syria fought the 1973 war to end the war: the former through peace and the latter by closing off its bilateral borders and providing guarantees that they would remain closed, though they allowed for letting off steam in the “Lebanese arena.” Jordan did not take part in the 1973 war in the first place. Iraq, through its forces in Jordan, allowed King Hussein to remove the tool implicating Jordan, i.e., armed Palestinian factions.
After a period of fluctuations, stalemates and the eruption of a vicious Syrian-Palestinian war, the first strategy was dealt a deadly blow in the nineties, with the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Agreement of 1993 and then the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli Wadi Araba Treaty.
Today, some are keen on reviving the implication strategy- or resurrecting Yasser Arafat- according to Carnegie fellow Mohanad Hage Ali. In an important article to read, he points to the changes seen in this year’s Quds Day parade in Beirut. Traditionally sponsored by Hezbollah, it was held lately in coordination with Hamas, highlighting the fact that many of its leaders reside in Lebanon.
Hage Ali explains that since 2019, Hezbollah has transformed Lebanon’s role in Palestinian- Israeli conflict in three ways:
First, the country has “become a haven for Hamas leaders,” coming from Qatar and Turkey, where they lived after leaving Syria. As well as Saleh al-Arouri, who has been living in Beirut since 2017, Khalil al-Hayyeh and Zaher Jabareen, two other leading Hamas figures, also live in Lebanon; so does the head of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nakhaleh. Meanwhile, Yahya al-Sinwar’s rise invigorated Hamas’ ties with Hezbollah and Iran after they had deteriorated because of its position in Syria.
Second, it seems that Hamas, for the first time, is building a military presence in Lebanon. That was revealed by the explosion in the Burj al-Shamali refugee camp near Tyre that killed the Hamas member Hamza Shahin five months ago. Hamas denied the claims that emerged at the time, but in its obituary, it mentioned that he lost his life on a “jihadi mission.”
Alongside this new military presence being built, the notorious factional wars were revived: three Hamas operatives were killed at Shaheen’s funeral, according to several Lebanese media outlets, by Fatah fighters.
Third, as Hamas’ military presence grows, coordination between Hamas and Iran’s armed subordinates, especially the Iraqis, but also the Syrians and Yemenis.
There is more and more talk, usually backed up by quotes from Nasrallah’s speeches, about the specter of a new war erupting because of the recent events in Jerusalem: When our holy sites are in danger, false borders lose all their meaning! Less than two weeks ago, a rocket was fired at Israel from Lebanese territory.
The ghosts, which had already been awakened by Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to the Palestinian camps in Lebanon in the summer of 2020, are slowly turning into ghouls: increasing numbers of arms that are increasingly unrestricted, border operations that elicit deadly Israeli retaliation, factional wars, the persistence of the economic collapse and international confidence in Lebanon hitting rock bottom, the expansion of the rifts splitting the Lebanese communities…
Lebanon’s susceptibility to becoming implicated increases the closer the Lebanese state gets to total obliteration. Iran’s forces are the ones guarding this obliteration, exploiting the failure of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and managing to turn this failure into an eternal and essential principle, as well as exploiting the failure of the region, which Tehran played a foundational role in bringing about. Today, Lebanon and Syria are empty spaces, voids waiting to be “filled.”
Go back to start? Yes, but there are differences: the task today is not to liberate Palestine, regardless of all meanings given to this word, but to support Iran in its confrontations. As for Lebanon, implicating it again, while it is in the state it is currently in, would be a mercy shot fired by those whose hearts have never known mercy.