Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lethal Clash at Israel-Lebanon Border - IT BEGINS. . .?

Details are still being confirmed (here's the NY Times report), it seems, with a lot of they say vs. they say, but an Israeli army mission (evidently to remove a tree - perhaps to ensure lines of fire?) into the area between the border with Lebanon and the UN Blue Line (which is in what would ordinarily be Lebanese territory) became deadly when Lebanese troops shot at them.  The IDF, as is its custom, responded with disproportionate force, following small-arms fire with artillery, followed by rockets from a helicopter that damaged a Lebanese army base.

As if tensions weren't high enough.

Tony Karon (for Time mag) was on this right away, noting that this is but one more of a series or recent events that "could be taken as signs of why many in the Middle East believe that despite the outward calm, the region may be on the brink of another catastrophic war."  He builds upon the just-published report of the International Crisis Group (Drums of War: Israel and the "Axis of Resistance"), which notes:
"The situation in the Levant is ... exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous, both for the same reason . . . .  The buildup in military forces and threats of an all-out war that would spare neither civilians nor civilian infrastructure, together with the worrisome prospect of its regionalization, are effectively deterring all sides." But while Hizballah and its regional backers, Syria and Iran, believe that the buildup in the Shi'ite militia's arsenal and capabilities is deterring Israel from launching attacks on any of them, Israel views the acquisition by Hizballah of a missile arsenal capable of raining destruction on Israeli cities as an intolerable threat. "As Hizballah's firepower grows," the Crisis Group notes, "so too does Israel's desire to tackle the problem before it is too late ... What is holding the current architecture in place is also what could rapidly bring it down."
Indeed.  To borrow an old expression, something's gotta give.

  • You have now in Israel a leadership (best exemplified in the statements of its prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu) that has cast Iran (and , by extension, Hezbollah in Lebanon) as an "existential threat." 
  • Israel has also lost its once most trusted ally in the Middle East - Turkey - in the wake of a series of provocations starting with the IDF's devastation of Gaza in 2008-2009, Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, and the arguably illegal IDF commando raid that killed 9 people aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of several ships trying to bring humanitarian supplies to Gaza.  (One of my readers seems to believe that these ships were trying to bring weapons to Hamas.  If anyone can point me to a report confirming that, I'd like to see it.)  Ehud Barak now fears that the Turkish military will give away Israeli military and intelligence secrets (presumably, to "terrorists" - which these days generally can be translated as any individual or group unwilling to accede to Israel's prerogative to crush whomever it sees fit to crush).  (The Turks, by the way, have now summoned the Israeli ambassador to answer for Barak's statements.)
  • Finally, you have an Israeli population that (except for the courageous journalists at Haaretz and peacemakers at Btselem) has hunkered down into a posture of "the whole world hates us" combined with the mentality (that Netanyahu gins up whenever he feels the political need) of "never again."
Indeed, never again - I truly hope that we're all agreed on that.  (And I also truly believe that the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims feel that way, too.) But when will Israel realize that the Middle East has changed?  That there will be no "new Middle East" as forecast in the 1996  "A Clean Break" paper prepared for him by the emerging neocon cabal (and that was announced in 2006 by Condi Rice as being "midwifed" by the 2006 Lebanon war - even as the US stood aside to let the IDF pound Lebanon)?  That (as Niall Ferguson has recently pointed out) the US likely cannot be around much longer to back Israel's plays?

Israel needs to re-think its relationships with the world.

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