It's long been known that Hizbullah's expulsion of Israeli forces from Lebanon in May 2000 had a major impact on the Palestinians. Here is how I summarized the matter a year later:
That impact is partly practical, with Hizbullah providing instruction and arms to the Palestinian Authority. For example, Hizbullah reached an agreement with the PA "to train fighters and provide weapons against tanks and aircraft," reports the Middle East Newsline. Palestinians took up Hizbullah's distinctive tactics and tools - suicide bombings on the one hand, roadside bombs detonated by mobile phones on the other. They even adopted the Hizbullah technique of filming themselves carrying out attacks on Israelis, then making the film available to the Arab and Muslim media.
The impact is also psychological. Palestinians watched Hizbullah impose every last one of its demands on Israel, without having to sit around a table with Israeli diplomats; this served as an object lesson. Palestinians concluded that if they used enough violence, they too could get all they wanted from Israel without having to compromise.
This "Lebanonization" of the Palestinian approach then had major consequences.
Hizbullah's success first inspired the Palestinians to turn down even the amazingly generous terms that prime minister Ehud Barak subsequently offered them, confident that they could do better on the battlefield. It prompted the Palestinians to abandon the bargaining table and revert to violence against Israel. It helps account for the escalation in that violence, which started with rocks and now includes long-distance mortar shellings.
In the most direct confirmation I have yet seen of this point, Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post today tells about Hizbullah's impact on the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, as explained by its commander, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh:
The Popular Resistance Committees was established in the Gaza Strip shortly after the beginning of the intifada in [September] 2000. Its founders said then that they had been deeply influenced by the "great victory" achieved by Hizbullah following Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon [about five months earlier]. According to Abu Samhadaneh, the Israeli pullout from Lebanon "enhanced our belief that the option of resistance can succeed, especially through qualitative operations against the occupation."
The "qualitative operations" are a reference to suicide bombings, rocket attacks and drive-by shootings used by Hizbullah against IDF troops. "This was our model," Abu Samhadaneh explained. "We learned from Hizbullah and started establishing armed cells that have carried out special operations against settlements and the Israeli army together with other Palestinian groups."
Comment: One can only wonder at who in turn will be inspired by the evil example of the Popular Resistance Committees' success this month. (August 7, 2005)
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