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Arab Regimes Back Israel's Attacks on Islamist Groups
: Israel has gotten a green light for its military response to the abduction of several of its soldiers from more than just the United States. Arab governments too have been notably silent as the crisis in the Middle East grows.
SAN FRANCISCO--Far more surprising than U.S. statements of support for Israel's assault on Gaza and Lebanon are similar proclamations from Arab governments. Just before the Israeli cabinet gave Prime Minister Olmert the green light for more attacks, a spokesperson for the Saudi government called for Israeli restraint, but blamed the current conflict on Hezbollah's seizure of two Israeli soldiers. "There is a difference between legitimate resistance and miscalculated adventures," he stated.
The official for the Saudi Ministry of Information hit hard on Islamic resistance groups in Lebanon and Gaza. Those groups, he said, should "bear the consequences of the crisis they have created."
Meanwhile, both King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt warned that Hezbollah is dragging the Arab world into conflict through its misguided gambles and adventures. The majority of Arab regimes has been silent about Israel's new two-front war. Their foreign ministers to the Arab League will not meet to discuss the crisis until July 15, three days after the start of Israeli air attacks and time enough for Israel to completely destroy Lebanon's infrastructure.
Israeli attacks on Lebanon or Gaza are not something new; nor are prisoner exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel. To date, there have been three prisoner exchange deals between Israel and Hezbollah (July 1996, June 1998 and January 2004) and several prisoner swaps between Israel and the PLO. The most famous swap was in May 1985, when in exchange for three Israeli soldiers held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Israel released 1,150 Palestinian political prisoners. So why the overblown Israeli reaction to the capture of several Israeli soldiers, and the Arab silence this time?
In a new strategy shift, the dependence of Palestinians and Lebanese on Arab regimes to confront and contain Israel politically and militarily has ended. Militant groups from Palestine to Iraq -- groups known in the Arab world as the Islamic Resistance and as "terrorists organizations" by Israel and many Western countries -- have been taking matters into their own hands. Arab masses have long realized the powerlessness of their leaders to end the conflict in Iraq or alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians. People throughout the Middle East remember the failed mediation attempts by King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt to lift the September 2002 siege on Yasir Arafat. Arafat remained a prisoner in his compound until few days before his death on November 11, 2004, when he was air-lifted to a military hospital in France only after French President Jacques Chirac intervened.
CAIRO - Foreign ministers of 18 Arab countries held an emergency summit in Cairo on Saturday over Israel's expanding assault on Lebanon, but squabbles over the legitimacy of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel - including the capture of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers that sparked the 4-day battle - appeared likely to keep participants from reaching a consensus, delegates said.
The Saudi foreign minister appeared to be leading a camp of ministers criticizing the guerrilla group's actions, calling them "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts."
"These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them," Saudi al-Faisal told his counterparts.
US allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan indirectly accused Hizbullah on Friday of harming Arab interests but also condemned the Israeli assault on Lebanon The remarks came amid fears of a wider regional conflict after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted Friday that Israel was not powerful enough to take on Iran and warned the Jewish state not to attack regional ally Syria.
While not naming Hizbullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdul-lah II warned of the risk of "the region being dragged into 'adventurism' that does not serve Arab interests," according to a joint statement published by Amman's official Petra news agency after the two met in Cairo.
Similar language was used earlier by Saudi Arabia, which indirectly accused Hizbullah of adventurism in provoking Israel's onslaught on Lebanon and putting all Arab nations at risk.
"It is necessary to make a distinction between legitimate resistance [to occupation] and irresponsible adventurism adopted by certain elements within the state," an official Saudi source told the Saud Press Agency late Thursday.
"These elements ... risk putting in danger all the Arab countries and their achievements before these countries have said a word," the source added.
The Saudi position is aimed at preventing the Middle East from sliding into yet another destructive war and at upholding Arab interests, Mohammad al-Zalfa, a member of the appointed Shura Council, said Friday.
The Egyptian and Jordanian leaders urged the Lebanese government "to establish its authority over all Lebanese territory" as they condemned and called for an immediate halt to Israeli military escalation in Gaza and Lebanon.