Sunday, July 16, 2006

One step forward, two steps back

As if the escalating violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza isn’'t enough, there is now another front: Hezbollah, Lebanon’s militant group, has seized two Israeli soldiers in the latest confrontation in the region. What’s most incredible is not so much the violence, given the already turbulent nature of the region, but rather how the situation has rapidly degenerated after slowly moving in the right direction over the past several years. Both sides a have a share in the blame, and neither wants to back down.

These recent events highlight how violence, though some believe it to be an easy solution, is heartbreakingly ineffective in remedying the problems faced. In 2000, Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon after years of occupation. In 2005 Israel withdrew from settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, and Lebanon held its first elections free from Syrian interference — three major moves toward a more stable situation that were a longtime coming.

Hezbollah received 23 of the 128 seats in the Lebanese elections, and then things started going downhill. This, coupled with Hamas winning the majority of the seats in the Palestinian Parliament, has made matters all the more difficult because both are considered terrorists groups by Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

This is not a clear-cut conflict. The term “terrorist” is hard to apply given the military imbalances and the options available to conducting any sort of confrontation in the traditional sense. Both sides are guilty of dubious acts, be it suicide bombings by Palestinians or the targeting of civilian infrastructure as seen in the recent incursion in Gaza by Israel. Setting aside the immoral nature of these tactics, there is a practical argument that can be made against their employment. So far every escalation by each side has been built upon the prior misdeeds of the other. When there are no just means of resolution, then an “eye for an eye” really will leave everyone blind.

Deceleration is what is needed, as hard as that may be. It’s simple to say, “Just work things out peacefully,” I realize that, but there are actions that could expedite the process. A start would be for Israel to work with the governments of Lebanon and Palestine, even though that would mean dealing with Hamas and Hezbollah. As John F. Kennedy so insightfully said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Israel should jump at the chance to work with the Lebanese and Palestinian governments.

Peaceful resolution will fail when people feel they lack any political efficacy. I’d much rather have “terrorist” organizations try to work through democratic channels in resolving their conflicts than acting on their own.

Joe Dunkle
Editorial writer

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