Between two friends

Posted in Politics + Diplomacy by expresscheckout on 4 August, 2006

Miri Regev and Condoleeza Rice 

Between two friends
By Tom Segev
August 3, 2006

It is difficult to decide which of the two war starlets is more annoying – Miri Regev or Condoleezza Rice. The Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman parades in front of the cameras stammering officers, some of whom do tell the truth at least. Among other things, she produced a press conference with one of the air force commanders, who sounded like a character in an Agatha Christie novel: He does not know what happened during the hours that passed between the bombing of the home in Qana and the deaths of dozens of children who had crowded together in its cellar, he claimed with a tone of mystery in his voice. Who knows? Perhaps someone else killed those children. Perhaps they killed themselves.

A few hours later, during the early morning, the U.S. secretary of state emerged from her Jerusalem hotel room with an announcement that was no less fantastic: By week’s end – by tomorrow, in other words – everything will be fine, she declared. She took her sheet of paper and flew away.

Rice is more troubling than Regev: It isn’t easy to be the spokesperson for a confused and meaningless war; the faltering stance of the Americans requires, on the other hand, a re-evaluation of what the appropriate attitude toward the United States should be – the United States of George W. Bush at least. The following lines should not be counted among those foolish anti-American outbursts heard in Europe. But, as we approach the fifth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, it is possible to say that the country many Israelis adopted as their beacon of values, almost a second motherland, has lost a great deal of its moral authority in the past few years. This is a good opportunity to rethink our relationship with Europe.

During the past 39 years since the Six-Day War, the United States did not force Israel to pull out of the West Bank, but more than once acted to block Israeli military actions. Over time, we have grown accustomed to the Americans saving us, not only from the Arabs, but from ourselves too. Not in this war. It is still unclear whether this war was coordinated with the United States; only the release of government records of the past three weeks will shed light on this. Whatever the case may be, the impression is that the Americans are linking the events in Lebanon to their failing adventure in Iraq.

Israel’s elites, in all fields, are made up of people who spent a number of years in the United States and returned with not only professional skills but also an appreciation for the value of the individual and basic freedoms. For the most part, this was a useful process, even though it did contribute to a fading of social compassion. This process of Americanization has led Israel in recent years to covet a role in what Bush has described as a war on the “axis of evil.”

As such, Israel has adopted the moral values of Hezbollah: Whatever they are doing to the residents of northern Israel, we can also do to the citizens of Lebanon, and even more. Many Israelis tended to look at the Qana incident primarily as a media disaster and not as something that imposed on them any ethical responsibility. After all, the restrictions of humanitarian warfare are not applicable to the “axis of evil.” Just like in Iraq, the lessons of Vietnam have been forgotten. It is hard to avoid the impression that the routine brutality of oppression in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is also reflected in the unbearable ease with which Israel has forced out of their homes hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and bombed civilians. No less than three weeks have passed, and only now is Rice beginning to make noises suggesting that enough is enough.

If Europe had some say in the region, Israel may have started negotiations with Hezbollah on the release of the soldiers it abducted – and hopefully, it still will do so – instead of getting mixed up in war. For some years now, more Middle East-related wisdom emanates from Europe than from the United States. It wasn’t Europe but the United States that invented the diplomatic fable called the road map; it wasn’t Europe but the United States that encouraged unilateral disengagement and is allowing Israel to continue oppressing the population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The United States is not engaged with Syria; Europe is. Syria is relevant not only for settling the situation in Lebanon, but also in managing relations with the Palestinians. This is the real problem. Because, even if the United States conquers Tehran, we will still have to live with the Palestinians. In Europe, they already understand this.


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