Israel and Lebanon Duel on the Editorial Page As Well

By: E&P Staff

An editorial today in the leading English-language newspaper in Lebanon and an op-ed by Yoel Marcus in Israel’s Haaretz reveal the stark differences in outlook as death and destruction continues in the current conflict.

Both papers are affiliated with the International Herald Tribune, have popular Web sites, and represent widespread views in each country. The two views are published below.

The latest from The Washington Post at noon on Wednesday: “Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Beirut’s main Christian enclave on Wednesday, a short distance from where hundreds of U.S. citizens were boarding a cruise ship chartered to evacuate them to the nearby island of Cyprus.

“In Israel, a Hezbollah rocket attack killed two children Wednesday in the mainly Arab town of Nazareth, authorities said.

“Israeli warplanes continued to batter southern Lebanon Wednesday morning, killing dozens of civilians in strikes that Israeli officials said were designed to prevent supplies and munitions from reaching embattled Hezbollah militia troops. On Tuesday, deadly airstrikes struck a Lebanese military base, a truck carrying food from Syria and a village near the border.”

Here are large portions of the two opinion pieces.

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From The Daily Star editorial:

Seven days into Israel’s war on Lebanon, there is no hint of effective international diplomacy on the horizon. The Lebanese are being forced to accept that they are alone in the world, without a friend who can defend them against an undeserved onslaught. The Syrians, who many have argued share a healthy portion of blame for the current crisis in Lebanon, are too busy saving their own skins, threatening fierce reprisals if their nation comes under attack. The Iranians, also fingered in this latest wave of hostilities, are cozily sitting back and enjoying the luxury of sacrificing Lebanon and Hizbullah in their quest to sweeten a deal with the West over their nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia is abandoning its role as a regional peacemaker, placing all of the blame squarely upon Hizbullah and Iran, and expressing no hint of outrage over the collective punishment and destruction in Lebanon. They apparently have adopted the belief that the more than 220 innocent civilians killed are among the “elements” in Lebanon who are responsible for the current crisis.

Egypt, the home of an ineffective Arab League, which cannot even muster the diplomatic will to hold a summit, is busy scolding Hizbullah for its misdeeds. As Lebanon burns for a seventh straight day, we see no sense of urgency on the part of Egyptian leaders to convene emergency talks among regional heads of state.

Even in Israel, there is no sign of diplomatic efforts on the part of leading politicians. The rookie Israeli government — which has achieved record destruction at a scale and pace rarely seen, even in this part of the world — has stepped aside and let Israeli generals take the lead. They fail to see the irony in the fact that their commanders have been pounding the very army that they expect to impose order over Lebanese territory.

And the Europeans and the Americans are blindly following as the Israelis lead us all down a treacherous path. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, formerly an advocate for the Lebanese people, is still lingering in Washington, apparently reluctant to even try to come and resolve this conflict.

In these darkest of hours, with the skies of Lebanon and the brains of international leaders clouded by the haze of war, the Lebanese are desperately searching for an outstretched hand of diplomacy. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has pleaded with the world to stop Israel’s “barbaric” attacks on the country. But the world has effectively abandoned the Lebanese people to their misery and turned a blind eye as they suffer the consequences of a decision that they themselves did not make. Instead of sending us their diplomats, the world is sending us its boats and buses for the refugees who hold foreign nationalities.

The Lebanese who don’t hold dual citizenship have no choice but to hunker down in their basements and shelters and watch the return of an international war that has been played out again and again on their territory. This time, their beloved homeland has been chosen as a battleground in which the Israelis will brutalize the Lebanese in order to teach the Iranians a lesson on behalf of the West. The war-weary Lebanese have no choice but to pay the ultimate price and once again bear the brunt of the consequences of world diplomats’ failure to resolve a crisis peacefully.

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From Yoel Marcus in Haaretz:

We should be grateful to Hezbollah for giving us this “window of opportunity” to launch an offensive that will change the rules of the game and break down the “balance of fear” created by Hezbollah’s menacing presence along our northern border. All Israeli governments have resigned themselves to Hezbollah’s extra-territorial standing as almost a state within a state, supported and stage-managed by Iran, which keeps it stocked with weapons and military instructors.

Despite Israel’s withdrawal to the international border in full cooperation with the United Nations, Hezbollah’s attacks have continued. Day in and day out, Israel has been subjected to raids, ambushes and kidnappings. Hezbollah, barely three feet away, has been watching us with its finger on the trigger.

We also have reason to be alarmed by the quantity of arms stashed away. The stockpile includes long-range missiles, guided missiles, UAVs, and other types of weapons we won’t know about until they are put to use. Unsurprisingly, the Home Front Command is preparing to issue warnings to Tel Aviv and districts south of it. Patriot anti-missile batteries have been deployed in Haifa to deal with any long-range Syrian and Iranian missiles Hezbollah may have in its bag. Hezbollah has more capabilities, including intellectual, than anyone thought. Aside from endurance power, it has shown that it is capable of playing games with Israel and seeing several steps ahead.

To use a phrase of which [Ariel] Sharon was fond, we could say that we’re looking at one of Israel’s most justified wars. With the whole arsenal that Hezbollah has amassed, it was clearly gearing up for a large-scale attack on northern Israel at some future date. Although the IDF started with a major strike against Hezbollah’s missile launchers, knocking out launch pads and command posts, hundreds of missiles continue to be fired every day. And given that we’re still not sure what weapons they may have, damage could be done to strategic sites.

One can only hope that Israel is not tempted at some point to send troops into Lebanon to engage in land combat in a region where Hezbollah has intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny. We’ve been in that mess before, and it ended badly.

Neutralizing the time bomb known as Hezbollah that sits on our border cannot be done without international involvement or mediation. For this to happen, the battered home front must take a deep breath, and Israel must keep up the military pressure until conditions are ripe for dismantling the ticking bomb for good

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