Herbert, in Monday Column, Says U.S. Should Have Restrained Israel

By: E&P Staff

First it was Nicholas Kristof. Now his colleague on the opinion page at The New York Times, Bob Herbert, has joined him as one of the very few pundits to clearly criticize the extent of the Israeli bombing campaign against Lebanon.

Few newspapers have carried editorials opposing the massive level of Israeli response and most of the leading liberal bloggers have also refused to take on that issue.

“It?s too late now,” Herbert writes in his Monday oclumn, “but Israel could have used a friend in the early stages of its war with Hezbollah ? a friend who could have tugged at its sleeve and said: ‘O.K. We understand. But enough.’ That friend should have been the United States.”

While endorsing Israel’s right to respond to attacks, Herbert added: “But the unnecessary slaughter of innocents, whether by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, American forces in Iraq or the Israeli defense forces, is always wrong, and should never be tolerated. So civilized people cannot in good conscience stand by and silently watch as hundreds of innocents are killed and thousands more threatened by the spasm of destruction unleashed by Israel in Lebanon.

“Going after Hezbollah is one thing. The murderous rocket attacks into Israel must be stopped. But the wanton killing of innocent civilians, including babies and children, who had no connection at all to Hezbollah is something else.”

Instead, Herbert observes, “the Bush crowd nodded in acquiescence as Israel plowed headlong into a situation that can?t possibly end any other way than badly. Lebanon, which had been one of the few bright spots in the Middle East, is now a mess. Even if Hezbollah is brought to its knees, the circumstances will ensure that there will be legions of newly radicalized young men anxious to take up arms and step into the vacuum….

“As a true friend of Israel, the task of the United States is to work as strenuously as possible to find real solutions to Israel?s security. The first step in that process, as far as the current crisis is concerned, would logically have been to try and broker a cease-fire.

“But the compulsive muscle-flexers in the Bush crowd were contemptuous of that idea. Always hot for war, and astonishingly indifferent to its consequences, they egged Israel on. That was not the behavior of a friend.”

The column in full is available at www.nytimes.com, via TimesSelect.

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