If you're looking for any wisdom from me on this, I have none to offer. Here are some reading links to pieces I've found interesting and/or informative.
"Do not meet troubles halfway," a Jewish proverb goes. Olmert has opted to go all the way, setting goals that may prove to be unattainable. If he succeeds he will be a hero. Failure would invite swift censure in a country that judges its leaders by results, not by good intentions.That's from a Sunday Times profile of Ehud Olmert. In the same newspaper, see this piece by Hala Jaber on Hassan Nasrallah:
Regarded as a terrorist leader by the United States, Israel and many other countries, Nasrallah is seen by hundreds of thousands of Lebanese as a great resistance fighter.Julie Flint writes on attitudes inside Lebanon:
Some Lebanese politicians have expressed misgivings over Nasrallah's determination to continue armed resistance since the Israeli pull-out, and the devastation wreaked on the country in response to Hezbollah’s actions last week will have made him more enemies.
The country is divided between those who blame Nasrallah for bringing down the wrath of Israel on Beirut, and the Shi'ites and other minorities who have rallied behind him. Some critics accuse him of putting Syrian and Iranian interests ahead of Lebanon's.
For Nasrallah the days ahead will show whether he has committed political suicide or can rally the country behind him.
Few Lebanese accept Hezbollah's claim that its intent was to barter the release of the handful of Lebanese still held in Israeli jails. They blame Hezbollah for plunging Lebanon back into war, without consulting a government of which it is now part, for reasons that have nothing to do with Lebanon: the need, imposed by its own raison d'etre, to show solidarity with suffering Gaza and, more reprehensibly, the desire of its Iranian and Syrian sponsors to show that they are regional powers indispensable to peace.Shmuel Rosner (via Jeff) on Israeli attitudes:
But there is fury, too, towards Israel, whose wildly disproportionate use of force risks economic collapse in a country where the national debt is twice the national income and possibly, in a worst-case scenario, new civil war as positions polarize around Hezbollah.
In this atmosphere, no military officer and no civilian decision-maker can even think about restraint. Reaching at least one of the two goals they set for this current operation in Lebanon - bringing the soldiers back home and "changing [the] rules of the game," meaning no more Hezbollah militias on the Israeli border - will decide not only the future of the northern front but also the political future of Israel's leaders.Henry Siegman writes about Israel's right to react but not to over-react, and distinguishes between the Gaza and Lebanon issues:
Israel's response to the terrorist assault in Gaza and the outrageous and unprovoked Hizbollah assault across its northern border in Lebanon, far from providing protection to its citizens, may well further undermine their security by destabilising the wider region.Eric Lee on why the left should be supporting Israel 'while... insisting that the Israeli military behave according to international law and keep civilian casualties to a minimum'. And today's leader in the Observer, which argues that '[t]he world community needs to recognise that, though their current tactics are unacceptable, the Israelis' war aims are reasonable', and calls for a united diplomatic effort:
On the surface, the situations in Gaza and in Lebanon may seem similar, but there are important differences.
No one doubts that Israel has a right to respond to the capture of two of its soldiers by the Hizbollah militia last week. That capture was effected during a raid that violated an internationally recognised frontier. Israeli forces defending their own national border sustained casualties. By any standards, that is an act of war.
In addition, the civilian population of northern Israel has been subjected to intermittent, random bombardment by Hizbollah rockets for years. This too is illegal and unacceptable and, even if casualties are limited, should be recognised as such by the international community.
The tragedy of the current crisis is that the Israeli response to Hizbollah's aggression has displayed a disregard for civilian casualties that has played directly into the hands of all those in the region who stand to benefit from conflict.
Update at 3.00 PM: Thomas O'Dwyer (hat tip: L) seeks the views of Israeli analysts, some of whom tell him that Hizbollah miscalculated and that the Israeli government is making things up as it goes along. From which:
"There is a big difference this time", says Avi Segal, a lecturer at Ben Gurion University - specialising in military policy, security and government in Israel. "In past operations in Lebanon, Israel was acting against puppet governments - the real government in Lebanon was the Syrians. I always thought it was a bit foolish to try to influence the Syrians by creating a crisis in Beirut. Now the situation is different. There is a Lebanese government, the Syrians are outside Lebanon, and so Israel can demand that the legitimate Lebanese government bring Hizbollah under control. The Lebanese have an army 70,000 to 80,000 strong, Hizbollah in the south has something like 3,000. So now security must begin in Beirut, they must control the south, because no sovereign country can continue to suffer this intolerable situation."Michael Young (also via Jeff) on the need for diplomacy to take over:
Israel wants Lebanon to pay an onerous price for its ambiguity on Hezbollah: it has imposed an air and sea blockade and is launching air attacks well into Lebanon, including several on the Beirut airport...A Lebanese blogger (via Michael Totten) reacts:
... But Syria is the nexus of regional instability, giving shelter to several of the most intransigent Palestinian militants, transferring arms to Hezbollah, and undermining Lebanon's frail sovereignty.
Israel can brutalize Lebanon all it wants, but unless something is done to stop Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, from exporting instability to buttress his despotic regime, little will change.
Once the Israelis end their offensive, Hezbollah will regroup and continue to hold Lebanon hostage through its militia, arguably the most effective force in the country...
It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah's having perhaps overplayed its hand...
What to do? While the United Nations has been ineffective in its efforts toward Middle East peace, it may be the right body to intervene here, if only because it has the cudgel of Security Council Resolution 1559, which was approved in 2004 and, among other things, calls for Hezbollah's disarmament.
We have no sympathy for Israel's position right now. None.Ratna Pelle:
We have sympathy for the Israeli civilians being hit by Hezbollah bombs, but there is no justification for Israel's action.
Obviously we all are worried about the current escalation, but many unjustly put the blame mainly on Israel.Lisa Goldman posts a translation of a piece by Yossi Gurvitz. Strongly critical of the present Israeli actions, Gurvitz sketches an alternative:
Israel's answer should be simple: an ultimatum to the Lebanese government to return unhurt all the Israeli prisoners, within one week. At the same time, we should demand that Nasrallah be arrested and put on trial at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, because the shelling of civilian areas is certainly a war crime. If Israeli pressure is joined by international pressure, it will strengthen the Lebanese government and help it to dismantle the Hezbollah - and the dismantling of the Hezbollah is a UN demand.An anguished leader in The Daily Star puts its hope in America:
At the same time, Israeli Air Force planes should reduce to dust the palace of the tyrant in Damascus, and bomb its army from the air. That way Israel will destroy the real target - while simultaneously helping to liberate Lebanon. That message - that a murderous Arab tyranny is collapsing because it tried to undermine its two democratic neighbours - will provide great encouragement to the Arab street.
That is the path we could have taken, if we had only stopped to think. But no: We let the blood blind our eyes and our thoughts, we listened to the army's promises, and we let it do its job.
We are holding out hope that the Americans will be faithful to the values that they have championed and protect us from further harm.
Update at 9.25 PM: Lisa comments on the 'watching them watching us' aspect of the situation; and a friend of hers rings from Gaza to see if she's OK. Bert at Dutchblog Israel writes:
We should say thank you very much to Saddam Hussein. Because of the Scuds that he sent this way in 1991 all houses that were built after that had to have a room of concrete and steel, with a specially designed door and window. These rooms give a sense of security, providing as much protection as possible to civilians against attacks such as these. Bomb shelters are much less comfortable, and you have to share them with neighbors and strangers.Chibli Mallat (again via Jeff) calls for a three-pronged resolution from the UN Security Council:
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora must go to New York as soon as he can in order to find a solution. Let us rally behind the terms of a UN resolution that solves the crisis. Otherwise, Lebanon will be torn asunder.Some pictures from the Israeli side.
And from the G8 meeting:
Group of Eight leaders on Sunday issued a carefully-crafted statement on the Middle East that blamed extremists for an upsurge in violence and called on Israel to be restrained in responding to attack.