The Dartmouth Observer

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by Listed on BlogShares

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wars and Rumors of War: Israel's Two Front War

Before the Olmert government through pressure against Gaza and diplomacy with Egypt could reverse the diplomatic impasse and military action caused by a Hamas-kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, the Lebanese based Hezbollah captured two additional Israeli soldiers. Both groups have said that a release of prisoners and an immediate end to military action would ease tensions and the conclude the impasse. Israel, proving that it would not bend in the face of terrorist alliance, responded with military strikes against Lebanon.

The New York Times described the situation in Lebanon, with military action occurring at the height of tourist season, as desperate.
The lines at gas stations stretched for blocks today and supermarkets and bakeries were packed as this nation prepared for a potentially long and difficult siege. With Israeli warships visible off the coast and the occasional roar of planes rattling nerves, Lebanese re-enacted some of the same ritual preparations they had abandoned 15 years ago when the country’s bloody civil war ended.

Shortly after sunrise, Beirut woke to bombs raining down on the east and west runways of Rafik Hariri International Airport, shutting down one of the prime arteries into and out of this country and stranding thousands of tourists at the peak of tourism season. And within hours, bombs struck a transmission tower for Hezbollah-owned al Manar TV in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

By midday, the city grew more panicked as Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets over the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs, warning residents to evacuate the area before impending attack. Hezbollah said it would retaliate for any bombing there by firing rockets at the largest city in northern Israel, Haifa. Many families packed their bags and left for the countryside where they chances of being hurt would be lower.

Hoards of tourists, most of them from Arab countries, packed up their bags and milled about in hotel lobbies, desperate for a way out. But with the country blockaded by sea and air, the sole exit was through the border with Syria, which by midday had traffic backed up for miles.

The New Republic's Yossi Klein Halevi, hawkish as always, characterizes the situation in nearly exaggerated terms. "The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun." Halevi advocates a broad military policy for Israel. He believes that the first move should include removing the Hamas regime and then Hezbollah. Fervently against limited the war to Gaza, Halevi writes:
Driving on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, I saw this graffiti: "Olmert, gadol alecha"--which roughly translates as, "Olmert, the job is bigger than you are." For Olmert to disprove that growing suspicion among Israelis, he must commit himself to the destruction of the Hamas regime. Sooner or later, Israel will have no choice but to adopt that policy. The only question is whether Olmert will still be prime minister when that happens.

In another article, Halvei spells out the same goal for Israeli grand strategy suggesting that unilateral disengagement is premised upon a tough-lined foreign policy.
The goals of the war should be the destruction of the Hamas regime and the dismantling of the Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Israel cannot coexist with Iranian proxies pressing in on its borders. In particular, allowing Hamas to remain in power--and to run the Palestinian educational system--will mean the end of hopes for Arab-Israeli reconciliation not only in this generation but in the next one too.

If unilateralists made a mistake, it was in believing our political leaders--including Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert--when they promised a policy of zero tolerance against any attacks emanating from Gaza after Israel's withdrawal. That policy was not implemented--until two weeks ago. Now, belatedly, the Olmert government is trying to regain something of its lost credibility, and that is the real meaning of this initial phase of the war, both in Gaza and in Lebanon.

Still, many in Israel believe that, even now, the government is acting with excessive restraint. One centrist friend of mine, an Olmert voter, said to me, "If we had assassinated [Hamas leader] Haniyeh after the first kidnapping, [Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah would have thought twice about ordering another kidnapping." Israel, then, isn't paying for the failure of unilateral withdrawal, but for the failure to fulfill its promise to seriously respond to provocations after withdrawal.

The Editors at the New Republic agree with Halevi that a firm line is necessary:
It is also worth noting that the Hamas-Hezbollah aggression is aimed at damaging precisely those political forces in Israel--now represented by Ehud Olmert's government--that withdrew Israeli settlers from Gaza and is committed to withdrawing Israeli settlers (70,000 of them) from the West Bank. It was one of the great ironies of recent times that Olmert's party rose in Israel at the exact moment that Hamas rose in Palestine; but the irony has turned deadly. They, the Palestinians, really do want everything. And so they are about to learn, yet again, that, as long as they want everything, they will get nothing. This may satisfy the nihilists in charge, since nihilists live for nothing.

The opinions of the international are divided on the matter. The EU and Canada has come out against the "disproportionate" Israeli response. CTA reports:
"The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel,'' according to a statement issued by Finland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency. "The presidency deplores the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified.''

In the EU's strongest comment on the escalating violence, the statement said "actions, which are contrary to international humanitarian law, can only aggravate the vicious circle of violence and retribution, and cannot serve anyone's legitimate security interests.''

President Bush, alternatively, supported Israeli actions and cautioned Olmert to protect the fledgling democracy within Lebanon.
In Germany en route to the G-8 summit in Russia, President Bush said Israel has the right to defend itself.

He laid the blame for the escalation of violence on Hezbollah and said Syria "needs to be held to account" for supporting and harboring Hezbollah.

"The soldiers need to be returned," Bush said. "It's really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress (for peace). As a matter of fact, it's pathetic." At the same time he said he was concerned that Israel's offensive could undermine Lebanon's fragile government.

Chancellor Angela Merkelof Germany took a moderate position between that of the EU and President Bush.
[Merkel] said, in remarks rendered by an interpreter, that it was important to remember “how this escalation started, through the kidnapping of the soldiers, through rockets - from the firing of missiles against Israeli territory.”

“The parties to that conflict obviously have to use proportionate means, but I am not at all for sort of blurring the lines between the root causes and the consequences of an action,” she said.