Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Perspectives on the Middle East crisis #3 (Norman Geras)

As explained in my previous post, Some perspectives on the Middle East crisis (Norman Geras), Norm is periodically updating his collected commentaries on the unfolding Middle East crisis. His first two installments were here and here. The latest installment (with some pictures) is below. --Jeff Weintraub
Norman Geras (Normblog)
July 18, 2006
The crisis in the Middle East 3 (updated)

Further to this post and this one, here are some more reading links...

The views of Israeli Arabs:
As long as the war was not threatening them directly, the inhabitants of Fureidis chose a channel in accordance with their Arab identity; when the danger approached their doorsteps, they became Israelis who needed the services of the Israeli channel. .....
The anger at the Israelis is explicit. "You don't go to war over three abducted soldiers; for this you enter negotiations," they said. The anger at Hezbollah is far more implicit and they hesitate to talk about it. "Hezbollah doesn't know that there are lots of Arabs in this country," says Ibrahim Hader evasively. Hussein Meri, a woodcutter and fisherman, takes command of the discussion: "They won't tell you. But yes, I'm angry at Nasrallah. He doesn't understand the reality here. If he were to see us now, Jews and Arabs at one table, he wouldn't understand. He only sees Gaza in his mind's eye. I have spent most of my life among Jews. For 30 years I worked in the market in Hadera. The Palestinians would think that I was a Jew, the Jews saw me as an Arab. Everything is reversed."
Also here:
"I am against the war," said Aziz Hamed, 30. "So many people in Lebanon are getting killed and there is so much damage. Israel is over-reacting."
Another viewer said: "Nasrallah [the Hizbollah leader] is a maniac. Israel should bring him down."
An anti-war demonstration in Israel; and a 'peace' demonstration in Egypt.

David Aaronovitch:
It seems to me to be utterly reasonable for Israel to take steps against an extragovernmental armed force - one that is not party to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute - that threatens its borders. The bigger questions are whether Israel's actions will attain the desired result, and what the international community can do, if anything, to help that process. This is a matter of trying to ensure that the military campaign for security does not fatally weaken support for the democratic and reform forces in Lebanon. It is unlikely that the Israelis have any very deliberate strategy for coping with this dilemma.
Jules Crittenden finds 'a reason for hope':
Israel, in response to the abduction of its soldiers and bombardment of its cities, has reoccupied Gaza and is pounding Lebanon and the bases of the Iranian-backed terrorist group that holds Lebanon hostage.
The world's remarkable and unprecedented reaction? Israel is justified. The leading democracies of the world, not given to agreeing on much in the Middle East, yesterday joined to call on Hezbollah and Hamas to return the Israeli soldiers they have abducted and stop the attacks on Israeli cities that the G-8 leaders agreed was the cause of the current violence. .....
When an Israeli military response is proclaimed as justified and gets results, we are experiencing something else quite remarkable. The Israeli Defense Forces as a Mideast peace broker.
Contrasting responses from (in turn) Michael Totten and Andrew Sullivan. Michael:
I sympathize one hundred percent with what Israel is trying to do here. But they aren't going about it the right way, and they're punishing far too many of the wrong people. Lord knows I could be wrong, and the situation is rapidly changing, but at this particular moment it looks bad for Israel, bad for Lebanon, bad for the United States, good for Syria, and good for Iran.
I'm not so sure. The news today that leading Arab states have actually condemned Hezbollah and that Iraq's Sunni minority is now hoping that U.S. troops will stay longer adds to the changing dynamic in the Middle East. What we may be seeing is a nascent, wider regional war between Sunni and Shi'a, triggered by Iraq, fomented by an increasingly belligerent Iran, and portending what could be a far more explosive and long-lasting Muslim civil war. This is to over-simplify, of course. There are many nuances here. Syria and Iran are uncomfortable allies ideologically. But if the Syrian regime needs Islamism to cling temporarily to power, I guess they'll use it. All of this is troubling and dangerous, but also clarifying and, as with all such developments, subject to improvisational and tactical exploitation.
(On which matter, see also this post of Jeff Weintraub's.)
A Times leader:
Although history suggests that the region's problems are intractable, the parameters of the current crisis are simple. Iran, with help from Syria, is trying to maximise its influence. Its arming of Hezbollah with rockets that can reach deep into Israel gives the radical militia group, and ultimately Tehran, the power to sabotage any Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. It is of widespread interest, particularly to the Arab world, that this "Shia crescent" is not allowed to become the region's powerbroker. This includes Syria.
Mr Bush may have been talking Texan rather than diplomatese, but he was right when he said that Syria could swiftly stop Hezbollah. And only the permanent spiking of Hezbollah's guns will lead to sustainable peace. That will require a diplomatic coalition of the willing, which must include Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to pressure Syria into doing what makes sense for its own future.
Hizbollah still on the air.

Michael Oren (free registration required - via Clive) draws parallels between 1967 and today:

[J]ust as Israel's failure to punish the patron of terror in 1967 ultimately triggered a far greater crisis, so too today, by hesitating to retaliate against Syria, Israel risks turning what began as a border skirmish into a potentially more devastating confrontation. Israel may hammer Lebanon into submission and it may deal Hezbollah a crushing blow, but as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north...
The answer lies in delivering an unequivocal blow to Syrian ground forces deployed near the Lebanese border. By eliminating 500 Syrian tanks - tanks that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad needs to preserve his regime - Israel could signal its refusal to return to the status quo in Lebanon. Supporting Hezbollah carries a prohibitive price, the action would say.
Christopher Hitchens (via Hak):
[Asked whether Israel are justified in attacking Syria...] Not on the basis of their last intervention in Lebanon, no, they're not. Regime change is coming to Syria, I believe, and has come to Lebanon for a goodly number of reasons, but these things only became possible when the Sharonists decided to stay out of it. I think it's absolutely the worst way to approach it...
Some pictures.