America Needs To Have A Stern Conversation With Israel.

As I start this blog a favorite region of the world for me is in turmoil and suffering bloodshed.   While the Middle East with its rich history along with wonderful culture and traditions is the major international news story tonight, this was not the topic about which I  had planned to post and with which to open my blog site.  As with newsrooms everywhere, (and that now includes blogger’s newsrooms as well) late breaking news and major events trump well thought ideas.

The conflict and its potential for further escalation between Israeli soldiers in Gaza and now in Lebanon should serve notice to all that some problems left to fester will eventually explode.   What seemed difficult diplomatically several months ago to traverse in the fragile atmosphere of the tinderbox of the world now may be almost impossible to accomplish.    The harsh reality is that at some point soon America needs to have a stern conversation with Israel.

The military maneuvers aimed at releasing a soldier captured in Israel and taken to Gaza has not freed the solider but instead only opened the regional hostilities that were on simmer over the past few months.  Now there are more Israeli soldiers being held and rumors abounded today that attempts were being made by the captors to take them to Iran.  The fact is clear for the entire world to see that the amount of reaction by Israel at the outset of this situation was not proportional to the problem that initially existed.

Let there be no mistake that the capturing of Israeli soldiers or the firing of rockets into the Jewish nation are equally as wrong and misguided   There is ample Arab resentment in the Middle East and much of it is justified but the manner in which this latest episode started is unacceptable, as it the manner in which Israel is dealing with it.

When Israel has a specific justified target and strikes it the world can conclude that a limited goal was achieved to end a certain problem.  Yet in the past couple of weeks events have escalated so that tonight targets ranging from military posts, government buildings, airports, and highways have been blasted.  Throughout Lebanon and near the Syrian border the wrath of Israel can be felt, and the world community must be asking exactly for what purpose. 

I can answer the question in the way Israel would address it.  The rockets that are being fired on Israel must be stopped and those who fire them must be punished and driven away from the Israeli border.   The abductors of the Israeli soldiers must be punished, and the captured soldiers returned to Israel.

But to achieve these goals in the fashion now underway by Israel only invites more anger and resentment by Arabs.  The absence of firm guidance and a severe tone by President Bush to the government in Tel Aviv is unsettling.  It would almost appear that given the anger by the conservative element in America to Bush and his policies the White House is hoping to avert further erosion in his polls numbers and fortunes in the mid-term elections by not reminding Israel from where their foreign aid comes.  By not angering the conservative base for political reasons Bush is allowing for great harm to international policy.

I am reminded of how other Presidents handled foreign problems of his type.  They weighed into the crisis with their Secretary of State engaging in shuttle diplomacy.

Care to wonder why Condi Rice doesn’t have her bags packed yet!?

2 thoughts on “America Needs To Have A Stern Conversation With Israel.

  1. America having a “stern conversation with Israel”! Now there’s a joke. Israel has always acted as though the US were its client state rather than vice-versa. And it has been able to do this because the US has a significant number of religious citizens — both Jewish and Christian — willing to go to bat for Israel at that nation’s behest. And the Israeli gov’t doesn’t hesitate to send representatives to these groups in the US any time it feels the need. The groups they reach have access to the US gov’t at its highest levels, and they are highly influential in protecting Israel from interference by our gov’t.

  2. Tom

    Clearly, you have always maintained two sets of standards in these situations. One is for a rational state like Isreal which you expect to demonstrate tolerance–even of grievous crimes like kidnapping and other forms of terrorism like launching rockets at civilian populations. Isreal because it is a rational democratic state should endure these savage acts and do the little or nothing that western liberals would do.

    The second set of standards is for “the Arabs” as you call them. You expect nothing of them in the way of civilized conduct. Of course it is expected that they will fire rockets and take hostages. Of course it is expected that when they do create their little authoritarian states they will demand the destruction of Isreal. Of course they will mutilate the dreams and bodies of women and homosexuals. Since you never expect any morality from them, the actions of Isreal which were provoked by the hostage taking or rockets or killing of teenagers must be the moral equivalent of the actions taken by a democratic nation to punish these actions and prevent future ones. Both have equally done what you expect.

    Some might argue that your low expectations of “the Arabs” (to use your term) constitute a certain racism. After all, you would be shocked were Sweden to begin shelling one of its neighbors and taking hostages. But where is the expectation that “the Arabs” begin to behave like civilized peoples in how they address their grievances, and where is the expectation that they demonstrate the same tolerance toward the people of Isreal that the Isrealis must demonstrate toward them? Now, I don’t think you are racist toward “the Arabs,” but I do think you are in denial here of the obvious truth which seems to dwell beneath the assumptions in your writing on this subject: that “the Arabs” or Palestinians or whoever cannot or will not adopt the civilized ways of western nations. Moral relativism blinds you to the obvious fact that one side demonstrates all the western virtues you demand of America, and the other demonstrates in almost every instance the opposite of those virtues.

    Instead of being outraged that “the Arabs” spit on every virtue you would celebrate in every other post, you descend into the complicated and useless historical calculation which might make Isreal the “cause” in order to distract yourself from the obvious reality that you would be welcomed in Isreal and persecuted in Palestine, Jordan, Iran, Yemen, or any of the others.

    The real question is how does a civilized society address conflict with a society or population that seems incapable of a Biko, King, Milk, or Ghandi–but instead embraces only random warlords and fanatics? The first part of the answer must be massive fire-power. The rest is beyond me.

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