Thursday, July 13, 2006

The latest round

There are two lessons in the recent escalation in the conflict between Israel on the one hand, and Gaza and Lebanon on the other. One is that this conflict will never end through the use of violence.

The reason the tension between Israel and Gaza is so bad, and that there is still fighting with Hizbollah in Lebanon in the north, is that there still has not been a political solution to these conflicts. Israel can neither militarily defeat it's foes, nor can it build barriers and borders that will protect it's people. There must be a political solution to these conflicts.

A second lesson that should have been learned a long time ago is that attacks on civilian targets will not turn people against groups like Hizbollah and Hamas. These are popular social and political movements in Lebanon and Palestine. In Lebanon, I've heard many Christians and secularists speak admiringly about Hizbollah. One secular Christian I know once said her friends wish for a Christian Nasrallah. Others speak in glowing terms of Hizbollah's capacity to gather intelligence on Israeli troop movements on the Israeli-Lebanese border, even knowing the names and rotations of Israel's officer corps stationed on the border. In Gaza former critics of Hamas now express their support for the movement. Israeli reaction to the capture of its soldiers is only radicalizing these populations and strengthening these militant movements.

The reality is that while it may feel good for Israelis to send in its tanks, planes and ships to destroy bridges, electrical plants and homes, such actions only show the country's weakness, not its strength. Just as terrorists strike out at civilian and other "soft" targets, Israel does the same. Israel knows it cannot defeat these groups, so it lashes out at soft targets, such as civilian infrastructure and civilians.

In Lebanon Israel killed 40 civilians yesterday. In Gaza Israel killed 23 Palestinians, many of them civilians, 10 of them children. Israel knows, and the internationial community should know, that such actions only make its position weaker, and only delays the inevitable concessions the country will have to make if it ever wants to live in the region in peace.

Peace is possible. Hamas has said it will recognize Israel if it returns to the 67 borders. In 2004 the Arab League offered full normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 67 territories. Hizbollah will follow the Palestinians lead. If and when Israel gives up it's dreams of annexing much of the West Bank, it can have peace.


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