no end in sight for israel/lebanon conflict
July 31, 2006
President Bush today reiterated his desire for “a sustainable cease-fire, a cease-fire that will last” while rejecting pressure from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others to push for an immediate end to the conflict between Israel and Lebanon, now in its nineteenth. There will be no “stopping for the sake of stopping”, he said. He and other administration officials continue to insist that Hezbollah is a “root cause” of instability in the region, one that necessitates Israel’s continuing bombardment of the group’s assets within Lebanon.
At last Friday’s press conference, the president even went so far as to claim that a cease-fire “won’t solve the problem” and would not “help the Lebanese citizens have a life that is normal and peaceful,” a position that Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin interprets as saying that “the Lebanese should be grateful that they are being bombed.”
The cost of the ongoing hostilities has been high. A temporary halt to aerial bombardment was called on Sunday after Israeli bombs destroyed an apartment building in the village of Qana, killing more than 50 civilians, but bombing resumed today (albeit with “reduced” intensity). Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today dashed hopes of an immediate end to the crisis, stating, “there is no cease-fire and there will not be any cease-fire in the coming days.” Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea presents another perspective on Qana, writing, “We dropped leaflets telling them to leave….We covered ourselves….I, for one, am covered in shame….No leaflet is going to make those who have no where to go leave their homes.“
Meanwhile, the White House backs a UN resolution calling for deployment of an international force to create a buffer between Hezbollah and Israel. “A multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly so we can help speed the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people,” President Bush said today. Israel has said that it is unwilling to seek a cease-fire until such a force is in place, fearing the “rearming” of Hezbollah without the safety of a buffer zone in southern Lebanon.
But with civilian deaths mounting, can we really afford to wait that long? Israel may have a “right to defend itself,” but its refusal to seek an immediate resolution to the conflict in the face of the Qana tragedy and others highlights its own indifference to the humanitarian crises it has created. Worse, America’s continuing support of Israel against the prevailing sentiments of surrounding Arab nations and of major players like France and the UK perpetuates the increasingly real phenomenon of American arrogance. We call for humanitarian aid to Lebanon yet do nothing to address the cause of the suffering that now occurs on a daily basis. As Mr. Barnea says, “It’s life and death.” For a president who has time and again defended the right of human beings to live, the choice ought to be obvious.
–D. S. W.