The war against Israel
For decades, the Palestinians and other Arabs have accused Israel of occupying their territory. Six years ago the Israelis unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon, where it had deployed troops to prevent Hezbollah terrorist raids across the border.
Last year, the Israelis made a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza strip. It also announced that it was preparing to withdraw from much of the West Bank, which it acquired in 1967 in retaliating against a Jordanian attack.
The hope in Israel and elsewhere in the democratic world was that the two withdrawals would be recognized by the Palestinians and other Arabs as measures that could lead to the establishment of meaningful peace in the region. But that was not to be.
In Gaza, the reaction to the withdrawal was an attack by the Hamas terrorist militia on a military base within Israel and the launching of rockets at Israeli towns. The expectation had been that Hamas leaders, who now control the strip, would use their new autonomy and outside financial aid to promote the local economy and to expand the local infrastructure. (Among the sources was $12 million donated by a group of American Jewish philanthropists for the purchase of agricultural facilities built by Israeli farmers in Gaza.)
But instead of trying to strengthen Gaza's economy and to demonstrate an ability to govern, Hamas began to smuggle weapons in from Egypt and other sources. The goal was to resume battling Israel. As expected, the Israelis have moved back into Gaza to destroy the rocket launching sites and to rescue a soldier kidnapped by the Palestinians.
Taking advantage of Israel's preoccupation with Gaza, Hezbollah raided an Israeli military base across the border, captured two Israeli soldiers, and began a rocket bombardment of Israeli population centers.
There is an apparent collaboration between Hezbollah and Hamas to attack Israel. Interestingly, the kind of sectarian differences that plague Iraq have not interfered with their alliance. Both terrorist groups are Islamic extremists aiming to establish fundamentalist theocracies. But Hamas is composed of Sunni Muslims while Hezbollah is a Shiite organization.
The Israeli response to the attacks from Gaza and southern Lebanon has been severe. Unfortunately, there have been heavy civilian casualties and extensive damage to Lebanon's airports, roads, and other important facilities.
Russia and the European Union, both perennially critical of Israel, charge that Israel is using a "disproportionate use of force" against Gaza and Lebanon. They evidently do not recognize Israel's right to defend itself against unprovoked aggression. Considering Russia's brutal campaign against rebels in Chechnya, the hypocricy is overwhelming.