To Say Israel Is Widening The War Is Poppycock
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Israel is racing against time to accomplish its objectives in Lebanon and Gaza before the U.N. Security Council adopts G-8 summit-type language that, inter alia, demands a cease-fire.
The war was triggered when the terrorists showed how they had adapted to Israel’s defensive security fence. While suicide bombings are way down, tunnels and kidnappings are up. And so are missiles, which no fence can stop.
Instead of concentrating on these developments, critics argue that Israel seeks to destroy Lebanon, is using disproportionate force, and is threatening to widen the war and draw in an additional country. A premature cease-fire will reward the terrorists’ new tactics and diminish Israel’s ability to control its own borders and protect its citizens from lethal attack.
First comes the balanced criticism – Israel has the right to defend itself, but – quickly followed by resolutions at the G-8 and, finally, the full force of the Security Council (impotent though it may be with North Korea and Iran) demanding an end to hostilities.
The dominant voices among the European Union leaders acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defense and to seek the return of its kidnapped soldiers but rejected the wider scope of Israeli actions. But President Chirac suggested that Israeli policy might evince “a kind of wish to destroy Lebanon” and declared, “I find honestly – as all Europeans do – that the current reactions are totally disproportionate.”
The president of the European Union, President Vanhannen of Finland, said Israel’s “use of force has been disproportionate” and violated “human rights under international law.”
All this is sheer poppycock. Acting largely with respect to the will of the international community, in both the case of Gaza and Lebanon Israel has withdrawn to the 1967 borders, leaving Palestinian Arabs and Lebanese with no further territorial claims on those two fronts. What has violated the international will has been the failure of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Iran to disarm.
The disarming of Hamas and all other non-Palestinian Authority militias is a bedrock requirement of the “Road Map for Middle East Peace,” launched three years ago by America, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. This group includes, but is not limited to, all of Israel’s main critics. The requirement that Hezbollah disarm and be replaced along Lebanon’s border with Israel by the Lebanese army is at the center of Security Council’s resolution 1559, passed two years ago.
Instead of disarming the terrorists it supports, Iran has been playing the West for a fool. The opening of the Lebanese front came just as the latest rounds of Europe’s nuclear talks with Iran failed and as the matter was referred yet again to the Security Council, evidence that Tehran’s intemperance had offended even the usually unflappable Russians and Chinese.
One way of looking at the current conflict has to do with the offensive and defensive adjustments each side makes to the other. Palestinian Arab suicide bombers have been severely hampered by Israel’s counterstrategy of erecting fences.
After waging a political struggle through the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice to force Israel to tear down the wall, terrorists have adapted, with tunnels in the Gaza case and a daring climb-over and ambush in the Lebanese case.
The terrorists adjusted to Israeli control of the skies and the sea by focusing on missiles. Missiles, even the crude variety fired off from Gaza workshops, fly over fence tops into Israeli territory. And especially when aided by better-trained Iranian agents, missiles can fly out to sea and cripple an unsuspecting warship.
The firing of an Iranian C802 missile at the Israeli warship Ahi Hanit was a shot across the American bow. This is one of the missiles Iran hopes could give it control of the Strait of Hormuz. The missile fired at the Ahi Hanit last week will be fired at oil tankers and American warships tomorrow.
How strange, then, to hear the Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, warn of “a real threat of involving third countries into this conflict.” Mr. Ivanov wants to spare Syria, where Russia is heavily invested, but Syria and Iran are already heavily involved in the Lebanese and Gaza fighting.
It is not Jerusalem that is choosing strategies and tactics, both political and military, that could trigger a wider war, but Damascus and Tehran. It is not Jerusalem’s territorial, religious, and political ambitions that now threaten the status quo but those of Damascus and Tehran. It is not Israel’s defensive deployment of nuclear weapons, which have acted to deter Arab nations from considering all-out war, that threatens world peace, but the nuclear program pursued by Iran.
Europeans want Israel to limit its goals to the return of the kidnapped soldiers, but Jerusalem has concluded that such a policy de facto forces Israel into negotiations with Hamas and Hezbollah and would inexorably lead to endless further kidnappings. That’s why Mr. Olmert has such widespread backing for his policy: to deny Hamas forces in Gaza the ability to continue launching missile attacks, and to clear a band 40 kilometers deep from the Lebanese border of any Hezbollah fighters. Retroactive arguments over the wisdom of this or that withdrawal notwithstanding, one clear advantage the Israeli government enjoys is the complete support of its population.