Thursday, July 20, 2006

A collection of words from a reluctant war

U.S. Marines on a rigid, inflatable hull boat patrol the coast of Lebanon, guarding the security of fleeing Americans. [Foxnews photo-essay]

A reluctant conflict

“We – the majority of us anyway – don't want peace with Israel, and are not interested in any real dialogue with them. We weren't then and we are not now. The entire peace process has always been about getting the land back, not establishing better relations. Even when we do get the land back, it's not enough. People in Egypt lament daily the Camp David treaty that prevents us from fighting. In Gaza they never stopped trying to attack Israel. In Lebanon Hezbollah continued attacking even after the Israeli withdrawal. And the people – the majority of the Arab population – support it. Very few of us are really interested in having any lasting Peace or co-existence. I mean, if our left is asking for war, what do you think the rest of the population is thinking?

I think that the Israeli want peace with us because they don't want their lives disrupted. They don't want to have the IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, rockets coming into their towns from Hamas or having to go to wars against Hezbollah to get their soldiers back. I think they want peace because they want their peace of mind. They view us as if we were a headache. We view them as if they are a cancer.

And this is why there will never really be any peace in the middle-east."

Candid words from Egyptian blogger “Sandmonkey,” speaking in collective voice regarding positions he himself does not hold.

“While the people of Palestine and Lebanon are paying the price of this bloody conflict, the main players, who caused this conflict, are living in peace and asking for more oil from Arab countries to support the facade of resisting Israel. With the Palestinian Authority close to collapse and the Lebanese government beginning to give up responsibility for what is happening in its territory, Saudi Arabia has been forced to come out of its diplomatic routine and indirectly hold Hezbollah responsible for what is happening Lebanon…

Unfortunately we must admit that in such a war the only way to get rid of 'these irregular phenomena' is what Israel is doing. The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community."

Incisive thoughts from Ahmed al-Jarallah, editor of the Arab Times, a Kuwaiti based paper that publishes online, quoted by New York Daily News.

Most Arabs perceive Israel as small. Egypt – home to one of every three Arabs – has enjoyed a cold peace with Israel for more than a quarter-century. Gulf states, on the whole, would rather make money than directly fight Israel. While they do not like Israel's existence, Jerusalem presents no threat. Not so Tehran. A giant with 70 million people, Iran is no status quo power. Its ideological commitment to export revolution is real. Across Lebanon and the region, Arab leaders see Hezbollah for what it is: An arm of Iranian influence waging a sectarian battle in the heart of the Middle East.

Some words of Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at AEI.

For years, the Arab world clamored for the Israel "problem" to be solved. Then peace and security would at last supposedly reshape the Middle East. The Western nations understood the "problem" as being Israeli retention of lands it had captured in Sinai, the West Bank, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon after defeating a series of Arab forces bent on destroying the Jewish state.

But after the Israeli departure from Sinai, Gaza and Lebanon, and billions of dollars in American aid to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, there is still not much progress toward peace. Past Israeli magnanimity was seen as weakness. Now Israel's reasoned diplomacy has earned it another round of kidnapping, ransom and rocket attacks.

Finally, the world is accepting that the Middle East problem was never about so-called occupied land -- but only about the existence of Israel itself. Hezbollah and Hamas, and those in their midst who tolerate them (or vote for them), didn't so much want Israel out of Lebanon and Gaza as pushed into the Mediterranean altogether. And since there will be no second Holocaust, the Israelis may well soon transform a perennial terrorist war that they can't easily win into a conventional aerial one against a terrorist-sponsoring Syria that they can.

Victor Davis Hanson, revealing that "Western patience is wearing thin."

From Israel's perspective, defeating this unconventional enemy requires an unconventional strategy. Hizbollah's headquarters are in urban neighborhoods and it fires its rockets from civilian areas, making it virtually impossible for Israel to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Israel's response is to destroy those elements of Lebanon's infrastructure, including its civilian components, which it says house and sustain Hizbollah.

Israel is using the "opportunity" presented by Hizbollah's attack to take care of the guerrilla force once and for all. But given Israel's choice of methods, it is inevitable that innocent Lebanese civilians will be killed in the process...

World attention is focused, legitimately, on the level of destruction being meted out on Lebanon. But in assessing Israel's response, one needs to look beyond the asymmetry of power, to a second asymmetry in terms of goals. Israel's goals are strategic, while Hizbollah's are existential. Israel has the greater arsenal, but it is fighting an enemy that won't be satisfied as long as Israel continues to exist. In this case the asymmetry is reversed. And it begs the question: how should you fight such a group as it wages war on you?

Hizbollah is not just a "Lebanese militia," but is Iran's proxy army, with Syria as the middleman. Hizbollah's actions, and Israeli reactions, could spark a regional war. "I'm afraid that if the Iranian president allows Hizbollah to use its long distance missiles against Israel" and they hit Tel Aviv, says Cheshin, "very soon we will find ourselves in a third world war."

The Lebanese people are being squeezed between Israel and Hizbollah, two forces that do not prioritize protecting Lebanese life. But so long as Lebanon and the international community remain unable or unwilling to disarm Hizbollah and remove it from Israel's border, Israel will continue to use its arsenal in a "deliberately disproportionate" manner against the organization that proudly declares itself to be Israel's existential enemy.

It is time for the international community to step into the fray for the sake of the Lebanese and the Israeli people. But any serious proposal must acknowledge that there can be no return to the "status quo ante."

Some thoughts from Pierre M. Atlas, assistant professor of political science and director of the Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College.

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