Beware of war

An editorial in Thursday’s Daily Star of Lebanon suggests Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may launch a war this summer in a bid to rally Israeli public opinion and ensure his political survival. Possible targets: Iran, Gaza and Lebanon, write the Daily Star’s editorialists.

Though tensions long have been mounting on the Gaza and Iran fronts (click on those links for recent JTA pieces on the subjects), the Daily Star editorial relies on flawed logic to reach the conclusion that the likelihood of war with Lebanon is higher as a result of Olmert’s political problems. It ignores the lack of public will in Israel for another confrontation in Lebanon of indeterminate success, Olmert’s own bitter experience from the 2006 war with Hezbollah and (dare I say it?) the integrity of a prime minister who would not wage war merely for political survival.

But in the Hezbollah-dominated (and intimidated) state that Lebanon has become, it’s telling to read the roundabout way the editorialists warn Hezbollah against provoking Israel (which really is an implicit plea to the Shiite militia not to invite more destruction upon Lebanon. The editorialists can’t flat-out say that, because that would be blaming Hezbollah for the last war with Israel, in 2006, and that’s a dangerous proposition in today’s Lebanon):

All of these potential targets should take great care to avoid providing Olmert with a pretext that would both make an attack inevitable and dilute whatever condemnation might come from more responsible members of the international community… Rarely have so many factors converged so perfectly to increase the likelihood of Israeli aggression. Rarely has it been more important, therefore, for the region’s indigenous forces – especially Hamas, Hizbullah and the Iranian government – to think long and hard about anything that might give the Jewish state an excuse to lash out. Indeed, even if an onslaught is launched without a pretext, all of these actors should consider turning the other cheek in hopes of preventing escalation and, thereby, of preserving the viability of the diplomatic solutions that such an attack would be designed to doom.

While I applaud the sentiment, it’s highly doubtful any of these parties would even consider turning the other cheek. They don’t really have a very long track record with that.

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