One of Israel’s problemsin dealing with the Palestinians is that she has been a nation divided. In the many years dealing with the Palestinians, the Israelis have ping-ponged back and forth between Hawks and Doves, always trying to divine which approach held the greatest chance of a lasting peace. (In this, she is distinguished from her neighbors, who had no Doves, only Hawks hoping for a lasting and total destruction of the State of Israel.) Now, though, with a threat so extreme that even the most Dove-ish dove recognizes that there is no way to “give peace a chance,” Israel approaches the war with remarkable social cohesion:
As Israel’s war with Hezbollah finishes a fourth difficult week, domestic criticism of its prosecution is growing. Yet there is a paradoxical effect as well: the harder the war has been, the more the public wants it to proceed.
The criticism is not that the war is going on, but that it is going poorly. The public wants the army to hit Hezbollah harder, so it will not threaten Israel again.
And while Israelis are upset with how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has run the war, they seem to agree with what he told aides this week — that given the weaponry and competence of Hezbollah and the damage already done to Israel, “I thank God the confrontation came now, because with every year their arsenal would have grown.”
Abroad, Israel is criticized for having overreacted and for causing disproportionate damage to Lebanon and its civilian population and even for indiscriminate bombing. But within Israel, the sense is nearly universal that unlike its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, this war is a matter of survival, not choice, and its legitimacy is unquestioned.
Even the bulk of the Israeli left feels that way. There is no real peace camp in Israel right now, says Yariv Oppenheimer, the secretary general of Peace Now, which has pressed hard for a deal with the Palestinians and on June 22, before this Lebanon war, called for a halt to air raids over the Gaza Strip. “We’re a left-wing Zionist movement, and we believe that Israel has the legitimate right to defend itself,” Mr. Oppenheimer said. “We’re not pacifists. Unlike in Gaza or the West Bank, Israel isn’t occupying Lebanese territory or trying to control the lives of Lebanese. The only occupier there is Hezbollah, and Israel is trying to defend itself.”
The above is from a New York Times article that is actually well-written and thoughtful — clearly a throwback to an earlier reporting era when conveying news was serious business! (And yes, I know that was nastily sarcastic way of giving credit where credit is due.)
We saw that same cohesion and clarity in the US after 9/11. Whether because the Bush administration mishandled the opportunity or because of the passage of time, we’ve quite obviously lost the feeling of joining together to fight a common foe. Or perhaps Bush is a victim of his own success. The fact that there haven’t been any terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11 has resulted in a completely predictable complacency. Israel will never have that luxury in the fight she is currently waging. If you know that failure means death, that has a remarkably clarifying effect on your thoughts. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, I suspect there can be no peaceniks when Hezbollah is firing on you from a neighboring country.