A group of armed Palestinians, some connected to the militant wing of Hamas, did penetrate Israel’s border security and did kidnap a young soldier, Gilad Shalit. Those who defend the action say that it was in response to Israel’s killing 7 members of an innocent Palestinian family. It was wrong to kidnap the soldier — absolutely wrong, and the G-8 leaders have said that; but they have also condemned Israel’s perceived disregard for the safety and value of innocent Palestinian lives.
Since then, Israel has been on a rampage and has permitted emotion and knee-jerk, overzealous responses prevail over measured and sober approaches that might not have only helped get the Israeli soldier freed but made some progress in establishing a climate to talk about the bigger picture of an Israeli-Palestinian solution.
Now Israel is not only blowing up bridges and power plants but has arrested dozens of Hamas ministers and lawmakers. Israel is arresting symbols of the Palestinian government — and edging this situation to potential full-out war. Condi Rice is urging restraint, but Israel seems out of control.
Americans have a lot to be thankful for that they didn’t live under this Israeli government during the Cold War because the hot-headed, lack of restraint would have surely led to a nuclear exchange with the Soviets if Israel had been at the helm.
Israel would do well to go reacquaint itself with the USS Liberty, which Israelis fired on killing American servicemen. I have had a discussion with someone who was the former head of the U.S. National Security Agency who has no doubt at all that Israel’s attack on the U.S. ship was purposeful and not an accident, as Israelis and Americans eager to cover up the incident have asserted.
America’s response was measured and put in context — whether one agrees with that or not. Israel got a huge pass.
Israel is demonstrating profound immaturity with its behavior, though I support the importance of negotiating and even pursuing its kidnapped soldier. However, despite its regional superpower status, Israel is showing that it tilts too easily towards responses far disproportionate to any sane or reasonable action. While Israel radicalizes Palestininans and many Arabs in the region with this behavior, it needs to know that it is eroding American support for its behavior and position.
Lines must be drawn — and Israel is way over the line now.
— Steve Clemons