For those of us who’ve been in a funk over Israel’s failure to achieve her goals in Lebanon, Max Boot, one of the most astute foreign affairs columnists around, has a few encouraging words.
The column is about the recriminations that will (must) take place in Israel.
This is why we might be able to regain hope:
Hezbollah did not, however, break Israel’s will to resist. A visit to the Lebanese border a week ago found, amid the fires started by enemy rockets and the thunderous return roar of Israeli tanks and howitzers, thousands of troops waiting ’like a coiled spring,’ in the words of one officer, to invade ’Hezbollah land.’ The soldiers were willing to close with and kill the enemy. Mayors of towns that had been under incessant rocket attack for a month told me that their constituents were willing to stay in their shelters for however long it took to finish off the terrorists. But most Israelis were at first reluctant to risk casualties by sending the army back into Lebanon, a reluctance shared by their vacillating leaders who, like NATO in Kosovo, tried to achieve victory on the cheap via air power.
Now will come the political reckoning. Some might see this fractiousness as a sign of weakness. Just the opposite is true. Arab societies tend to attribute their shortcomings to outsiders, a failing apparent in a meeting in Jerusalem last week with Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, who blamed the prevalence of autocracy and theocracy in the Middle East on (who else?) the West. Israelis, by contrast, look within for the source of their misfortune. That allows them to correct what went wrong and get stronger in the future. This process is now underway, and Israel’s enemies would be well advised not to underestimate that nation’s fighting capacity, no matter how wrenching the debate.
A Tale of Two Cities: I can’t help but mention a naiíve Nightline piece last night on the two Beiruts: the western-looking East Beirut, which is mostly Christian, thriving, studded with Starbucks and outdoor cafes, and the eastward-looking West Beirut, which is mostly Islamic. It’s the Islamic Beirut we’ve been seeing lately. The broadcast described an interviewee in West Beirut as being pro-Hezbollah ‘after’ the recent conflict.
So it’s Israel’s fault that this guy is Hez? My guess is that this fellow was Hezbollah long before the first Israeli bomb fell. But it was nice to get a glimpse of East Beirut, of which I have fond memories from a visit there in there in 1985. They won’t say it, of course, but I’ll bet the people of East Beirut fear their fellow citizens on the other side of town as much as we do.