Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

It is disturbing - although not surprising - to see President Bush backing so overtly Israel when he should de calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities on all fronts. Once again, the US president stands out among Western leaders – Germany, Spain, Norway, France, Russia and China have all criticized Israel too, but as Josh Marshall recognizes not only does American politics lean heavily in Israel's direction; so does the American media. That is bad for long term relations with Arabs and it will playa role in recruiting terrorists in the next future.

Yes, as Bush says, Israel certainly has the right to defend herself and Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that must be dealt with firmly but to repeat this as old mantra is not going to get anything done. Taking side so conspicuously while the conflict is dangerously escalating is extremely irresponsible, no matter how Bush personally feels about it. This is not what a responsible leader of the world’s most powerful nation should do.

If Israel certainly has the right to defend herself, the use of force must be proportionate to the injure inflicted, and I think the European Union is right in accusing Israel of "disproportionate use of force." which goes "far beyond the legitimate right of any country to defend itself."

The greatest risk is obviously escalation with looming conflicts with Syria or even Iran. In fact, according to Edward P. Djerejian - former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Syria and director of the James Baker Institute (NPR),

there is speculation in the Israeli commentary that perhaps the next step can be targeting Syria as Syria supports Hezbollah & Hamas”. Djerejian warns that “one mustn’t be too complacent that this military situation can escalate into a wider conflict. It can be contained but the international community has to play an important role".

It would be wise indeed for the US to engage in direct or indirect talks with the major players (Iran and Syria) before it gets any worse. It is a question of political will but it seems that this administration does not have it. Clearly, the involvement in Iraq has been a distraction from the main issue but steps towards resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would certainly help on other issues, including Iraq.

This administration’s short-sightedness continues to amaze me and Bush’s ideological blindness is beyond comprehension. It seems that a sense of reality has not kicked out the old ideological framework but the notion held many neo-cons that open conflict s in the Middle-East may be a chance to “reshape the Middle-East” is just too simplistic and dangerous.

If Hezbollah is not, for the most part, gaining support among countries in the region, Israel nonetheless runs the big risk of unifying people against her if more civilians get killed.


At 18:45, Anonymous marc said...

You might be surprised to know I agree with the European Union denouncing "Israel's "disproportionate use of force." Who wouldn't? Still....(of course), you sound too naïve or European-minded to believe "Israel nonetheless runs the big risk of unifying people against her if more civilians get killed". Israel HAS courageously (!!) run this risk for decades, centuries, millenia...?

At 19:47, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Yes and look at where it got them. Is the risk worth taking? Aren't there other ways to deal with the problem in this day and age? You would certainly think so. It seems that precisely, after so many failures, people would learn. Apparently, Bush has not and neither have some Israeli leaders.

At 01:03, Blogger DoubleE said...

What does a proportionate response accomplish when dealing with a terrorist organization? When Israel's campaign in Lebanon ends and they have isolated and captured the Hezbollah leadership (which I believe is what they are trying to accomplish), will other terrorist organizations be as bold to launch attacks against Israel? In my opinion, Israel, by escalating the conflict in the air, land and sea, is also pressing the issue of support and arming of Hezbollah. How does a state respond with a "proportionate use of force" against a terrorist organization? Will the terrorist organization respond with a "proportionate use of force"? Since Hezbollah is firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities, would it be "proportionate" for Israel to attack Lebanese cities indiscriminately? I believe that too many people are trying to frame this as a state vs. state conflict, when it is not.

At 04:59, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

As far as your first question is concerned, I don't think that escalation in violence has ever really stopped terrorists in the past. The more are killed, the more are recruited and this action by Israel - backed by the most powerful country in the world - adds to their feeling that they are right as they become martyrs.
As far as your other point goes, I don't think a democratic state should use the same standards as terrorists in the way they deal with an attack. Sometimes they do, but it's unfortunate. It is precisely because Israel is not a terrorist organization that it should respond with a "proportionate use of force".
It has also been argued that this actually is a war between states by proxy and that it is a cold war of sorts between Israel and Syria. In any case, there are governments (Syria or Iran) financing and harboring the Hezbollah. So there are ways to deal with the issues that don't require a "disproportionate use of violence" but state to state diplomacy (i.e. pressure).

But what is a "proportionate" response? Kidnapping two Hezbollah fighters? Where do you draw the line? Violence begets violence. Escalating a conflict is not always the best policy. Does it act as deterrent or recruiting tool? In this case, the two sides have shown themselves incapable of negotiating a peaceful settlement. Pressure from someone like the US to cease hostilities, instead of simple reminders to mind the civilians, would be a useful first step here.

At 23:43, Anonymous marc said...

"So there are ways to deal with the issues that don't require a "disproportionate use of violence" but state to state diplomacy (i.e. pressure). "
I'd be glad to hear about those "ways" and know on whom there should be pressure? Israel? Remember the Hezbollah, Hamas and so on are not fighting for mere freedom or territories. What pressure then?!
Sorry, boys, to sound so pragmatic and skeptical....

At 05:42, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

If you cut their financial support to Hezbollah, the fighting will cease - and where do you think the money's coming from? It is by pressure those countries that support Hezbollah and Hamas (Iran and Syria) that you can get those radical groups to the negociating tables. It is beginning to happen with Hamas.
Then there are plenty of things to negociate. (and btw, the Hamas certainly thinks it's fighting for freedom and territories.)
What is needed is political will. The country that can most have an impact is of course the US (along with Europe). Unfortunately, the Bush administration is not only one-sided (=pro-Israel) but it is also makes decision solely based on ideology (which is mostly a binary one - such as "we will not talk with enemies"). Iraq has also diverted attention but even before that, Bush neglected purposely the Israeli-Palestenian conflict - it is a complete reversal of Clinton's policy. The reasons are complex but the fact is undeniable.
There are plenty of things to do and a lot of leverage despite what you seem to believe but there is no political will to do it.


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