Friday, July 21, 2006
The current war between Israel and Hezbollah is just the latest surface crisis in the more deeply-rooted problem in the region. It's an extremely complex situation that goes back to 1947, and as some say, thousands of years.
I want to clearly state my position on this subject for those readers who may have misinterpreted my overall views. To begin with, I believe the Palestinian people have a very legitimate claim, and I am very sympathetic to their cause. I feel great sadness and frustration that their leadership has consistently failed them. They are a people who deserve a homeland, like all people. And I have been very supportive over the years of any and all efforts Israel has made, unilaterally and/or upon pressure from the United States, to negotiate, make land concessions, prisoner exchanges, and other moves as a start to the peace process. I think the current violence is horrible and so unnecessary. But if there's ever going to be a lasting peace, a solid two-state co-existence, it's going to have to come from the involvement of not just Israel, but of its Arab neighbors. Let me be as clear on this point as I can: The Palestinian problem is not exclusively an Israeli problem.
To understand what's at stake in the current Middle East crisis is to understand how wars are played out today. The rules of engagement have changed dramatically. The Muslim fundamentalist enemy of the U.S. and Israel is an enemy that places more value in its extremist causes, and winning, than it does on life itself. It's a jihadist enemy that's willing to strap on bombs and blow themselves and everyone around them to pieces. Rather than fear death, this enemy eagerly embraces it as martyrdom. It's a chilling thought, but we've gone from Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to the terrorist nuclear threat. It is not easy to fight this enemy, and traditional tactical and strategic warfare methods do not apply. Which is why we cannot summarily dismiss as "disproportionate" or an "overreaction" Israel's retaliation to Hezbollah's attack on Israel.
Yes, Israel was attacked. As the United Nations' Kofi Annan said Thursday, the cause of the violence "was Hezbollah's provocative attack on July 12."
Annon added that "Whatever other agendas they may serve, Hezbollah's actions, which it portrays as defending Palestinian and Lebanese interests, in fact do neither. On the contrary, they hold an entire nation hostage; set back prospects for negotiation of a comprehensive Middle East peace."As anyone knows, the U.N. is hardly the great defender of Israel. But the simple fact is, this was an unprovoked act of war, yet placing blame is not what's important. What's critical here is the future, and what must be done to get the region headed in a direction of relative peace and security.
To date, the leading Arabs nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, have been non-existent in the Middle East peace process. They've essentially deserted the Palestinian people and left Israel to find a solution to the problem. While they and the world decried the injustices leveled against their Palestinian brethren, they themselves did nothing to help them. Let's not forget how Jordan, Lebanon and Syria kicked out Yassir Arafat and the PLO over the years. And how, overall, Palestinians living within Israel are in fact treated better than in many Arab countries.
There's a critical balance of power crisis in the Middle East right now which threatens not just Israel, but these very same Arab nations. Leaders such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Syria's Bashar Al-Assad, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Saudi King Abdullah and Lebanon's Fuad Saniora must decide, and quickly, if they're going to allow Iran--and the Islamic extremist terror groups it supports, funds, arms and trains--to dominate the Middle East and spread its religious fundamentalism across the region. If the latter scenario is unacceptableble, then they must also then bring a reasonable, rational and earnest voice to the negotiating table. They are at a critical crossroads and must choose between diplomacy and terror. They must join Israel, the U.S. and the European Union in working towards a realistic peace.
But more important, the Palestinian people themselves must ultimately decide whether or not to leave its fate in the hands of violent jihadists committed to Israel's destruction, or to leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority. Let me repeat again, this is not an exclusive Israel problem. Israel cannot unilaterally create peace. It has to have committed partners at the negotiating table. Currently, such partners do not exist. The overall political and military strategy in the region today has unfortunately been dominated by terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah backed by the fascist regime of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If this continues, the safety and security of Israel, the Arab states and America will be gravely threatened.