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The west must recognise that Israel's agenda is in conflict with its own
The Olmert government, Hizbullah and Hamas are tacitly united in rejection of any moves towards a compromise peace
Whatever else can be said for or against Israel's escalation of military action against Lebanon, there is little prospect that it will achieve its stated objectives. If Israel couldn't defeat Hizbullah after 18 years in which its army occupied large swaths of Lebanese territory, it is not going to succeed with air strikes and blockades, or even another occupation. The same point applies even more forcefully in the case of Gaza. Every time Israel applies the iron fist in an effort to beat the Palestinians into submission, their resistance simply re-emerges in a more extreme and rejectionist form. Far from fearing Israel's wrath, Hizbullah and Hamas must be rather pleased at their success in provoking it into the sort of over-reaction from which they have always benefited.
Nor does it seem plausible that military action will enable Israel to secure the release of its captured soldiers. The civilian victims of Israel's indiscriminate retaliation have no real influence over the militias that hold them, while the militias themselves are untroubled by the spectacle of public suffering. On the contrary, they thrive on it. In the case of Lebanon, it is possible that acts of collective punishment, such as the destruction of Beirut airport and yesterday's killing of yet more civilians, might divide Hizbullah and its supporters from the rest of the country, but only at the risk of triggering another civil war and creating a vacuum that Israel's enemies in Syria and Iran will find easier to exploit.
In view of all this, it is valid to ask what Israel thinks it is doing. Indeed, this question is implicit in the statements of world leaders at the G8 and elsewhere who have called on Israel to use force proportionately, avoid civilian casualties and refrain from acts that might strengthen Hamas or destabilise Lebanon's fragile political settlement. No one quibbles with Israel's right to defend itself, but doesn't it understand how irresponsible and immoral it is to deliberately escalate the conflict in this way?