The Yellow Dog Blog

More meaningless ramblings from another guy you don't know

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hitchens' Middle East take

Agree with him or not, no piece by Christopher Hitchens should ever be missed. Not only will it be wonderfully written and thoughtfully reasoned, but it frequenly takes a tack you hadn't thought of or expected.

Hitchens' op-ed in today's WSJ regarding the provenance of the current Middle East situation is similarly missed at one's own peril. He sites two precursors for the remarkable coincidence of Hamas's and Hezbollah's hostage taking.

First is the case of Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot captured by Hezbollah twenty years ago when his fighter was shot down over Sidon. He was used as a bargaining chip to extract the release of prisoners by the Israelis, although this ultimately failed to materialize. Arad was reportedly moved (or sold) to Iran at some point and Hezbollah reported him dead and his remains "lost" some time ago.

The second is the case of Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President, and his attempts to coerce Hamas into endorsing a two-state solution which would, in effect, force Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. Abbas's ultimatum to Hamas (as paraphrased by Hitchens) was:

If you do not recognize the newly elected government of Israel as a legitimate negotiating partner...I will order a referendum among the Palestinians on the single issue of that recognition. He had in at his disposal an important letter, signed by several respected Palestinian political prisoners, that called for a two-state solution on this basis, and he was also cutting with the grain of important resolutions by the European Union and other concerned international interlocutors. (no link as the WSJ article requires paid subscription)

Hitchens point is that Hamas, rather than face the unacceptable result of a referendum that recognized Israel, orchestrated the attack and kidnapping specifically to provoke an Israeli response, thus making such a referendum impossible. He goes on to say that it seems likely that Hezbollah's similar attack and kidnapping were similarly coordinated to help Hamas. And by extension, Israel's responses in both Gaza and Lebanon play into the Islamists' hands.

This certainly seems, at a minimum, plausible. The other Machiavellian explanation for the timing of these actions was orchestration by Iran to deflect the attention of the G8 summitteers from Iran's nuclear program. I don't pretend to be as knowlegeable on the situation as Hitchens or many of the other commentators. But rather than blind luck, I have to believe one, if not both of these explanations is behind what we're now witnessing.

As for solutions, we've heard the same , predictable stupidity from Kofi Anan and his ilk, suggesting an immediate cease fire with UN peacekeeping troops inserted...becasue that's worked so well every other time it's been tried. It's more than a little disappointing that Tony Blair has subscribed to this tripe. The net effect of this would be to reward Hezbollah by restraining Israel, thus allowing them to recover, re-arm and repeat the same outrages again in the future.

Instead, nothing results in loonger-lasting peace than a decisive military campaign. Israel needs to be given the time and freedom to deal Hezbollah a serious and decisive damaging blow by destroying as much of their infrastructure and personnel as possible, while at the same time preventing resupply from Syria and Iran. Such a policy would go infinitely farther in ensuring years of peace in the region than any tens of thousands of blue-helmeted traffic cops.


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