Israel has once again been dragged into a war it did not want and did not start. Just as was predicted in May’s Australia/Israel Review editorial, Iran’s rulers have apparently used their control over Hezbollah and influence over Hamas to create a crisis and divert attention from their illegal attempts to develop nuclear weaponry.
However, the reactions to the Hezbollah-Israel war are different from other wars foisted on Israel by its enemies. Just a few days after the conflict began on July 12, the editor of a Kuwaiti newspaper argued that, "The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community".
Statements blaming Hezbollah for the current violence have also come from the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as well as many Arab commentators.
These actors have not suddenly become Israel’s friends. Instead, they recognise that, as the veteran leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, put it, "The war is no longer Lebanon’s - it is an Iranian war. Iran is telling the United States: ‘You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear program? I will hit you at home, in Israel.’" Iran, assisted by Syria, is attempting to assert its power in the region, and the Arab states are worried.
There seems little doubt that the Hezbollah attack was designed, at least in part, to draw attention away from the ongoing controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Just before the crisis erupted, the issue was again referred to the UN Security Council for consideration of possible sanctions.
Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation banned in the UK, US, Australia and elsewhere, was founded, trained, armed, funded and, in part, directed, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
All this was done in front of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a peacekeeping force created in 1978 - some four years before Hezbollah’s creation. UNIFIL not only failed to keep the peace, it frequently allowed Hezbollah to locate its forces just outside their own posts.
This almost certainly contributed to the tragic accident on July 25, where Israel unintentionally struck a UN observers’ post at Khiyam, killing four UN peacekeepers.
There was absolutely no justification, either in law or in ethics, for Hezbollah’s blatant violation of sovereign Israeli territory to kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers and fire rockets at civilian targets, which triggered the current conflict.
In May 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon in a move recognised by the international community as ending any territorial quarrel between Lebanon and Israel. The same can be said of Hamas attacks from the Gaza Strip, which was also completely evacuated by Israel last year.
In the face of Lebanese and UN paralysis, Israel can only prevent Hezbollah attacks by disarming it and moving it away from the border. The Israeli Government has even concluded that suffering the hundreds of rocket attacks and dozens of civilian casualties still occurring throughout its north is a price worth paying - if it prevents even worse attacks later.
Israeli attacks are concentrated on Hezbollah bases, command centres, rocket launchers and storage warehouses, most of which are illegally situated in the middle of civilian areas. But Israel has also sought to isolate Hezbollah by cutting off transportation links - air travel, roads, bridges, ports and the like. This is a perfectly legal and justified military tactic because it serves a genuine military purpose - to prevent Hezbollah’s rearming by its patrons Syria and Iran.