A Response to Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
I have to admit, reading Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey's article, titled Israel: State terrorist attack against Lebanon left me with mixed emotions. It’s almost impossible to believe someone could be so close to the point, and miss it so badly.
According to Bancroft-Hinchey, Israel has responded to terrorism by becoming a terrorist itself. This idea, lies on the basis that any violation of international law, regardless of what provoked it, is still a violation of international law.
There are a few facts that you need to know. For one, Israel actually withdrew from Lebanon six years ago, and has publicly and physically accepted the fact that Lebanese land is in fact Lebanese.
This was performed by Ehud Barak, one of the most left wing, peace promoting leaders in Israeli History. He was rewarded with an attack by Hezbollah, in which three soldiers were abducted into Lebanon (where they eventually found their demise). Along the line, an Israeli businessman was also abducted into Lebanon.
Over three years later, an Israeli peace seeking government led by Ariel Sharon paid a massive price – release of over 400 terrorists who were held in Israel, in order to receive 3 bodies and 1 living citizen. THREE YEARS. 400 terrorists who went right back to terrorism.
Many believed retribution was to come shortly, but time went by and it seemed everyone was content with the status quo. There was relative quiet on the border, except for the frequent missile launchings by Hezbollah into Israel. Israeli government overlooked these violations – in order to avoid escalation.
Approximately 17 days ago, 2 Israeli soldiers were murdered by Hamas related militants, and another, Gilad Shalit, was abducted and is still, as we speak, held captive by the Hamas (assuming, god forbid, the haven't murdered him). Israel 's blow to the Hamas was the strongest blow since Operation Jenin. Recent posting in the Israeli press suggest that Gilad Shalit is alive today, but his whereabouts are unknown.
Nesrallah, head of the Hezbollah just couldn't sit by. Four days ago, in an attack initiated by Hezbollah on Israeli territory, eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two more were abducted into Lebanon. Nesrallah celebrated too early, and thought he was headed into another three year long negotiation for prisoners.
He read the map wrong. Israel is no longer led by Ehud Barak. Nesrallah thought this was a good opportunity to test Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Minister of Defense, Amir Peretz, are considered rookies. What he didn't take into account is that Ehud Olmert is a right wing leader, known for his "hot head" and impatience with terrorism, and Amir Peretz is a ruthless negotiator who is known to stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
I can understand why to someone who doesn't know much about the subject it would seem like Israel is attacking in Lebanon, and that its reaction is out of proportion.
For one, Lebanon is not an innocent bystander. UN resolution 1559 required all foreign powers to leave Lebanon. This meant nothing to Syria, which withdrew its forces only recently, after the USA threatened serious repercussions. The resolution also calls for the dismantling of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and the extension of the control of Lebanon over all Lebanese territories.
Unfortunately, Lebanon not only did not act to dismantle Hezbollah, despite the fact that it has an operative army which could do so. In fact, they had democratic elections where the Hezbollah faired wonderfully. In addition, despite repeated Israeli demands, the Lebanese army refused to spread out in the south, and did nothing to stop missile launchings into Israel by Hezbollah. Instead, the Lebanese government decided to "stay out of it". Well if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Had Lebanon pushed Hezbollah away from its border with Israel, none of this would have been happening. Lebanon left Israel with no choice.
Additionally, Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey seems to overlook one important fact. None of this would have happened if Hezbollah hadn't crossed the Israeli border and attacked Israel. More so, Hezbollah can cause a cease fire at will, by releasing the abducted soldiers. The Lebanese government can do the same by turning in Nesrallah. For some reason, this isn't even an option in the eyes of Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey.
But why use so much force? I assure you that Israel's actions aren't just blowing off some steam on poor innocent population. In fact, there is an active effort not to hurt civilians (as opposed to Hezbollah's intentional targeting of civilians with its missiles for the past 6 years and during this conflict). Let's try to understand what Israel's goals are:
Push Hezbollah away from the border. This is the bare minimum that has to be achieved. Eventually, Hezbollah will have to withdraw from the south of Lebanon. Much of its missile launcher arsenal destroyed. If anything, that will give Israel and the whole region some peace and quiet for a while.
Pressure Lebanese leaders into turning in Nesrallah. As simple as that. They know where he is. If they really want some peace and quiet, they know what they have to do.
Pressure Syria and Iran. Israel is sending out a stern warning. We're sick and tired of your constant attacks and involvement in Terrorism. The leadership in Israel will not be patient any more.
Avoid removal of the abducted soldiers from Lebanon. The last time something like this happened, Ron Arad ended up in Iran and it's been over 20 years since he was captured, and about 18 years since we received any credible information about his whereabouts. (There's another missing soldier, Guy Hever who may also have been abducted to Syria or Iran). So, as unfortunate as it is that Lebanon can no longer have any airports or roads leading outside of the country and not boats can leave the coast, there is a reason for that. Of course, if Nesrallah released the soldiers, things would calm down really quickly.
So it is crucial to understand - Lebanon is not an innocent bystander, and in fact has more control over its destiny that it would like you to believe. All they need to do in order to stop the Israeli attack is to turn in Nesrallah, dismantle the Hezbollah and return the soldiers. Honestly, Israel would probably agree to an immediate cease fire if they simply returned the abducted soldiers.
But there's one final point that requires addressing. The World simply has to support Israel – there's not other option. Abductions are an imported idea by the Hezbollah. They didn't make it up, but terrorists all across the world are watching to see what happens. If Hezbollah shows them that abductions lead to successful results, they will all adopt this system. Just like suicide bombings, it won't stay an "Israeli problem". It will become a World problem.
And who knows, Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey. Maybe some day your country will have to deal with a similar situation. I'm sure you'd feel differently than you do about the Israeli-Lebanese situation.
The author is an attorney in Israel. He is also the author of "Get Your Facts Straight", a political blog about the situation in the Middle East from an Israeli perspective.