Think of Israel’s fight against the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as war by proxy. In regional strategic terms, this is Israel against the rejectionist front led by Iran and Syria, the extremist forces and reactionary regimes that reject any compromise peace between Israel and the Arabs. Think even bigger and Israel’s fight is against Islamic extremism and its terrorism, the same war America and the West are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.
However the current Middle East crisis ends, it must represent a defeat for Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Otherwise, an already volatile region will be further destabilized. If Hamas and Hezbollah emerge from this battle undaunted and undiminished, Islamic terrorists worldwide will be heartened and emboldened.
Thus, President Bush was wise to resist any premature rush to impose a cease-fire on Israel and cobble together a diplomatic "solution" that rescues Hamas and Hezbollah from the defeat they deserve.
Terrorist attacks on Israel, by Hamas from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon, started this war. Moreover, the specific attacks that, finally, provoked Israel to strike back were preceded by months and years of raids, rockets and terrorist bombings against Israel. The truth is that war-weary Israel has demonstrated remarkable restraint in the face of continued provocations over long periods from these terrorist organizations.
The lame excuse that Arab terrorism against Israel is merely a response to "occupation" doesn’t apply here. Israel withdrew completely from its security buffer zone in southern Lebanon fully six years ago. Israel withdrew all its settlers and military forces unilaterally from the Gaza Strip last September, leaving Gaza to the Palestinians. No occupation in Lebanon. No occupation in Gaza.
Yet, terrorist attacks continued. From September 2005 to June 2006, Hamas combatants fired 850 of their home-made rockets from Gaza toward Israeli population centers. From Lebanon, Hezbollah waged low-intensity warfare against Israeli border posts and settlements while amassing from its patrons in Iran and Syria a huge arsenal estimated at 13,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in 2004, required Hezbollah to be disarmed and replaced by Lebanon’s regular army along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Resolution 1559 was ignored in Lebanon and never implemented.
Israel cannot be blamed for exercising its inherent right to self-defense; a position endorsed by the world’s major industrial democracies at the G-8 summit and, amazingly, accepted at the Arab League summit in Cairo, which harshly condemned Hezbollah for instigating the current crisis. When Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the Persian Gulf sheikdoms rebuke an Arab group warring against Israel, there can be no doubt who instigated this crisis.
The Arab League recognizes that Hezbollah is acting as a proxy for Iran’s mullahs and their messianic brand of Shiite fundamentalism. That extremist, expansionist creed has threatened any number of Arab governments ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Now that Iran’s government is obviously seeking to develop nuclear weapons and Iran’s president talks openly of "wiping Israel off the map," Iran threatens the world.
Hezbollah is also Syria’s stalking horse in Lebanon, a country under Syrian military occupation until last year. Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution and a united U.N. Security Council forced Syria’s dictatorship to pull its troops out of Lebanon. But Hezbollah remains, a heavily armed state-within-a-state controlling the strategic real estate bordering Israel in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah itself is a repugnant organization with a loathsome history of terrorist atrocities.
Hezbollah has the ugly distinction of killing more Americans than any international terrorist group other than al-Qaida. It was Hezbollah that blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 American servicemen, who were in Lebanon to act as peacekeepers. It was Hezbollah that truck-bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that same year, killing 63.
And it was Hezbollah that kidnapped foreign nationals, including Americans, in Lebanon to be held for ransom throughout the 1980s.
Hezbollah’s current leader, Hassan Nasrallah, regularly calls for Israel’s destruction and echoes Iran’s ritualistic denunciations of the United States as the "Great Satan."
Hamas is no less repellent. Despite its electoral victory in the Palestinian territories last February, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, refuses to honor past agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and refuses to renounce violence against Israel. This is not a formula for peace or for achieving what three successive Israeli governments have explicitly endorsed – creation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.
An Israeli victory over Hamas and Hezbollah would be a victory for reviving the currently moribund Mideast peace process. An Israeli victory would be a sharp setback for Syria and Iran, and for their dangerous ambitions in the region. Finally, defeating Hamas and Hezbollah would be a signal victory over the global forces of Islamic extremism and terrorism.
Nothing less is at stake in this war between Israel and its terrorist tormentors in Lebanon and Gaza.
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