When he wrote to us last night, Joel Mowbray headed his brief report from Israel “It’s war.” Today Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz provides his own analysis to the same effect: “Israel at war.” Horovitz writes:
There are those who have branded this latest conflict a continuation of Israel’s War of Independence, and there is no little truth in the assertion. On both of the fronts on which Israel has been drawn into heavy fighting, its enemies can make no legitimate claim to be pursuing a territorial dispute: as of last summer, Israel relinquished its hold on the Gaza Strip; in Lebanon, it pulled back to the UN-certified international border six years ago.
Except that, in both cases, the Jewish state’s assailants are indeed pursuing a territorial ambition – to unseat Israel from its own sovereign lands.
Israel has watched Hizbullah build up its offensive capability in the years since the security zone was dismantled – watched it, ever bolder, establishing its positions up against the border fence and saw it developing its missile capability – and chose not to act. That stance was misinterpreted as weakness.
Wednesday morning’s cross-border attack, complete with the barrage of shelling and rocket fire that served as cover, highlighted the IDF’s intolerable absence of room for maneuver in such circumstances. And an Israeli government with a defense minister who had genuinely hoped to oversee a return to the peace path was obligated to militarily “change the rules of the game.”
Hizbullah is a wily and well-prepared enemy, all-too-demonstrably capable of wreaking a degree of havoc in northern Israel and beyond, and the goal of dismantling its offensive capacity will not be easily achieved. Thursday’s air onslaught certainly impacted Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure; it is less clear how deeply Hizbullah was harmed.
Still, in contrast to the asymmetrical struggles against terror cells and Kassam rocket crews, the IDF has now been unleashed in a context where it can expect to use more of its strengths. And woe betide a nation under attack inside its sovereign borders if it does not decisively prevail.
Charles Krauthammer also explores the existential nature of the assaults to which Israel is responding. The gist of Krauthammer’s column is that the “occupation” to which the Arab/Muslim opponents of Israel object is the Israeli occupation of Israel. In the Washington Times, Wesley Pruden’s bracing column weaves in the comments of Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon at the National Press Club yesterday:
Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, offered a warning to Iran in blunt, forceful language yesterday at a session with reporters at the National Press Club: “They are playing with fire, and will bear the consequences.” This is not the usual diplo-speak, but a warning in language that thugs and primitives better understand.
Mr. Ayalon, choosing his words carefully, calls the present crisis “a historic, dangerous juncture.” The threat, as is clear to anyone brave enough to look the ugly reality square in the face, is the radical Islamification of the Middle East, forced by an Iranian regime that is backward, totalitarian and dictatorial. “All this,” the ambassador says, “and nuclear weapons, too.”
Most of the rest of the world is, as usual, either trying to make Israel the villain, or trying to sleep. The United Nations Security Council, ever on the scout for ways to equivocate in the face of moral challenge, would have adopted a resolution condemning Israel yesterday but for a veto by the United States. Four other nations, displaying the irresolution that is the courage of cowards, abstained. Israel’s neighbors, who have the most to lose if the radicalized “religion of peace” prevails in the Middle East, displayed their usual manliness. Greece called the Israeli response to the kidnapping of its soldiers on Israeli soil, and the continued rocket attacks on Israeli cities, “excessive.” (The bad guys are only terrorists, after all, not Turks.)
President Bush, in Germany to pay court to Angela Merkel, quickly said the right thing. Israel has the right to defend itself, and the blame for the escalation of violence is rightly on Hezbollah, the terrorists who crossed the border earlier this week to seize the two soldiers. Even Mrs. Merkel, whose government often employs timidity in the face of challenge, agreed that Israel and its tormentors do not share equal blame. “I think that one needs to be careful to make a distinction between the root causes and the consequences of something.” (One certainly do, as the Hon. Fats Domino might say.)
Mr. Bush is concerned, however, that in its determination to protect itself Israel should not destroy the new government in Lebanon, which is distinctly wary of Syria, which has treated Lebanon as its doxy of convenience for a generation. The Israelis shelled Beirut’s international airport whence the rockets arrive from Syria, where they are manufactured.
Syria, as well as Iran, is playing the deadly game. Much of the Hamas administration of the Palestinian government, such as it is, has run to hide in Damascus. Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas, preaches now from a Damascus pulpit. Sample: “Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination, but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good.” Pretty big talk for a fat man on the run, but the Israelis understand that even a fat man on the run is dangerous with his finger on a trigger. It’s the lesson the rest of the world has not yet learned.
RealClearPolitics has also posted an excellent column by Robert Tracinski elaborating the Iranian roots of the war and its object:
Iran has revealed its hand, challenging the US and its allies and openly demonstrating its desire to dominate the Middle East through force and terror. While we have been trying to delay the war with Iran, it has brought the war to us, in a manner so obvious that even the mainstream media cannot evade it.
In doing so, they have made their threat to America and its interests more obvious and more urgent–providing a stronger case for war than their nuclear program could provide. There can be no question here about whether Iran really has aggressive designs in the Middle East, whether it really seeks the weapons to attack the US and its allies, and how long it might take for such a threat to materialize. The threat is here and Iran’s newest war on the West has already begun.
Iran is risking everything on this new strategy, and the only hope they have of success is the expectation that, as they bring the war closer and closer to America, we won’t fight back.
But that means that we have an easy way to blow their strategy to smithereens.
All we have to do is to start fighting back.
In the Washington Post, historian Michael Oren argues that Israel must target not only the terrorist leaders that threaten it, but also their national sponsors: “Israel has no realistic option but to convince [Syria and Iran] that the price of promoting aggression is prohibitive. If Israeli soldiers and civilians are the targets of Iranian- and Syrian-backed terror, then the Iranian and Syrian militaries must become targets for Israel.”