Kristof Raises Concerns About Extent of Israel’s Attacks: Self-Defeating?

By: E&P Staff

With few newspaper editorials expressing alarm about the extent of the past week’s destruction of lives and infrastructure in Lebanon, especially in Beirut, the task has been left to scattered columnists. One of them, on Tuesday, is The New York Times’ recent Pulitzer winner, Nicholas Kristof.

After detailing overreaction in the past by Israel’s impatient foes, Kristof warns, “I?m afraid that impatient Israelis may now be falling into the same trap. Israelis, outraged by attacks and kidnappings, have escalated the conflict by launching an assault on Lebanon that may make life in Israel far more dangerous for many years to come.

“It?s easy to sympathize with Israeli outrage, particularly since the attacks on it follow its withdrawals first from Lebanon and then from Gaza. But the winners in this conflict, in the medium to long term, are likely to be hard-liners throughout the Islamic world. …

“The Iranian and Syrian regimes are illegitimate, incompetent and unpopular, but they may be able to exploit anger at the television images from Lebanon into a longer lease on life for themselves. Pakistani extremists will be strengthened in their calls for jihad. In Sudan, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will rally popular anger to resist U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur. In Iraq, sympathy for Lebanese Shiites may strengthen Iraq?s own extremist Shiite militias. …

“If Israeli continues with a limited air war for a couple of weeks, it will produce enough television footage of bleeding Lebanese to anger the world, but not enough to achieve any substantial shift in power on the ground.

“Until this month, Hezbollah had been on the defensive in Lebanon. … But now Sheik Nasrallah, one of the canniest politicians in the region, has kidnapped not only Israeli soldiers but the Middle East conflict. He may well emerge with more credibility than ever among Sunnis as well as Shiites. …

“Sheik Nasrallah?s power today arises in part from Israeli bombing back in 1982. Likewise, the sheik?s radical successor in 2030 will be empowered in part because of Israeli bombings in 2006. …

“If Israel is ever to achieve real security, we have a pretty good idea how it will be achieved: the kind of two-state solution reached in the private Geneva accord of 2003 between Arab and Israeli peaceniks. The fighting in Lebanon pushes that possibility even farther away ? and in that sense, each bombing mission harms Israel?s future as well as Lebanon?s.”

The entire column can be found at via TimesSelect.

At the Washington Post, Richard Cohen was not nearly as critical but he did express the wish that Israel not push an invasion. “Whatever happens, Israel must not use its military might to win back what it has already chosen to lose: the buffer zone in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip itself,” he wrote.

Also at the Post, E.J. Dionne offered support for an Israeli writer’s call for a 72-hour ceasefire to allow international players to intervene: “So let there be at least a brief cease-fire to let the world take account of the catastrophe on its doorstep.”

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