Syria's Complaint

There is a diplomatic adage that in summary states that if you complain first and loudest, you have a decent shot at being seen as the aggrieved party even when you know it is really you who are the aggressor.

Now, the government of Syria has lodged a formal complaint against Israel with the United Nations. The action came in the form of two letters which were sent earlier this week to the U.N. secretary general and the president of the Security Council. The letters said that last week Israel flew into Syrian territory and let munitions fall as they were being chased away by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said the Israeli action was in violation of the 1974 disengagement agreement that was reached after the 1973 Mid-east war.

Well, my word. How awful of the Israelis! Except of course for the fact that they were intercepting a shipment of arms being allowed to go through Syria, with the full knowledge of that government. And the arms were designated for Hamas, now firmly in control of Palestine’s West Bank on the Gaza strip, and the arms were designated to be utilized against Israeli troops and citizenry along the border. Nor did Israel fail in its attempt and have to let its munitions fall as they were being chased away. No, their aircraft and pilots are too good for that. They scored a direct hit and that makes Syria angry.

Just two days ago, Israel suffered a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas into a military camp which wounded over forty Israeli soldiers, several of them seriously. Nor is it the first incident of rocket fire. Although often lousy shots and working with inferior weaponry, Hamas continually pelts Israeli border towns, which they can reach with their crude arms, and this time they managed to do some real damage inside the borders of the Jewish state.
Immediately, despite the violence, U.S. officials urged Israel to show restraint, fearing heavy action in Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic militant Hamas, could jeopardize the new momentum in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

"We would only counsel in this case, Israel, which has suffered injuries and losses as a result of attacks, to take into consideration the effects of what they might do in self defense on the overall political process," U.S. state department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

That is a nice way of saying, “Do something, but don’t do too much,” and that, of course, leaves Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a quandary. He has faced growing calls within his own country to respond to the near-daily rocket attacks out of Gaza. But fearing international displeasure, Israel has limited its response to brief, limited ground incursions and air strikes aimed at rocket squads.

After Tuesday’s attack, along with a rocket last week that exploded near a nursery school in the southern town of Sderot, many Israelis are growing impatient. Indeed, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a member of Olmert’s ruling Kadima party, told Israel Radio: “The question is not whether to create deterrence, but when.”

How about now? There comes a point when you cannot let the enemy get away with things they believe they can get away with. When you start acting in a predictable manner, then you lay yourself open to your enemy’s every whim. Hamas knows that Israel is being pressured by the international community to use restraint. Hamas knows that the Jewish high holidays approach and the Sabra state would rather be at peace at that time then engaged in hostilities.

According to Associated Press reporter Josef Federman, two small extremist groups, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. But Israel held Hamas responsible for the violence, since it has done nothing to halt the attacks.

"It doesn’t matter which terror group took responsibility. Gaza is totally controlled by Hamas, and it has the ability to stop this and decided not to," said Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister.

It is, naturally, an on going game of cat and mouse in the Mid-East and all of Israeli’s allies and enemies know that the country is operating under a paradox, chiefly with the United States, which demands that they acknowledge their enemies actions, and even do something about it, but not too much, and at the same time exercise this thing called “restraint” because a larger good is supposedly at hand.

This time the thing Israel did about it was to blast some new supplies traveling, with the full blessing of  Syrian dictator, laughingly called a President, Bashar al-Asad, through that country. Naturally that upset Asad and as near as anyone can tell, we apparently don’t want to push too far by upsetting him too much.

But, we should push just as far and as strongly as we can. U.S. diplomacy for too long has been about restraint and it is a restraint that has done very little good in Korea, in Viet Nam or in the mid-East. There comes a point when measured but very firm responses are needed.

When Hamas took over for the Palestinian government in Gaza such a point arrived. That is because Hamas is one hundred percent funded and armed by Iran from which the arms traveling through Syria are originating, and Iran’s dictator, also laughingly called a President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for the total extinction of Israel.

There comes a time when “restraint” is no longer a valid option and the world’s super power must back its primary ally in the Mid-East and let the world and especially Israel’s enemies know exactly what that means. If that sends our state department running with hands-wringing about how we are risking possible hostilities just when we are on the verge of a so-called “peace,” then perhaps those counseling this restraint should be sent to Israel’s border on the Gaza strip unarmed and see how long they want seek peace while they dodge the rockets, however ineptly fired, of Hamas and its splinter groups.

As for Syria, there are a few letters that almost any civilized country could send to the U.N. about their miserable conduct over the past dozen years or more as well.