I was listening to the BBC podcasts as I was driving around in my car today and, in one of the interviews with a British government minister, I recall a line from the minister that really stood out.
It’s not like anyone’s questioning the right for Israel to exist.
Yet, in all honesty, that’s exactly what’s at issue with the conflicts in both Gaza and Lebanon. If you listen to real interviews with members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the citizens of the territories, many of these individuals are denying Israel has a right to exist. A two state solution to the Palestinian crisis is not out of reach. Instead of launching attacks against Israel, the Hamas-led Palestinian government could have demonstrated that they were going to be adults and attended to the needs of their citizens. Instead, they demonstrated only that they can behave like small children. Their rise to power combined with the Israeli pullout was an opportunity to show the world that the Palenstinians could be trusted and were capable of building their own state; instead, it confirmed that the doubters who argued the Palestinians would never be able to stand on their own were correct.
Lebanon, likewise, finds itself in a similar predicament. The Lebanese government could have taken steps to disarm Hezbollah after Israel pulled out in the year 2000. Instead, Hezbollah continued to exist, to plan and develop its capabilities. It launched attacks on the pretext that Israel still occupied territory. What territory? The disputed border with Syria over the Golan Heights? The Palestinian cause?
The truth, which Western leaders so often like to forget, is that Israel itself is the disputed territory in the minds of many in the Middle East. Western leaders who ignore this fundamental fact to pressure Israel to capitulate do so at everyone’s peril.
P.S. Who ever thought I would come to agree so strongly with the Bull Moose on this point?
Updated to add: My only fear is that Israel will push Lebanon to collapse, creating yet another destabilized land within an already unstable region. Building governments out of the ruin is much harder than supporting and developing existing ones, a la Afghanistan and Iraq.