Israel, U.S. interests differ in new attacks
The current Israeli assault on Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is a major collision. What should be the American position?
Our president argues since both Hezbollah and Hamas can be classified as terrorist organizations, Israel is fighting terrorism, and there should be no difference in the U.S. and Israeli position. He adds the only basis for ending the shooting is a comprehensive settlement of all of Israel’s border problems. First, let’s leave aside any questions of just how difficult it may be to solve problems that are more than 60 years old.
Instead let’s examine the question from the viewpoint of the interests involved. We begin by recalling that no two nations have exactly the same interests. Israel is an American ally, and we have a vested interest in its survival but on any specific issue we may find that our two nations’ views and needs diverge. On the current problem, our interests are widely divergent.
Israel finds attacks on her border to be intolerable, demands a permanent solution and is willing to go to war to get one. For the United States, these attacks are simply one more source of confusion and difficulty in a region filled with problems.
From our viewpoint, the Israeli response raises a difficult issue to the level of major crisis that threatens to further disrupt U.S. efforts in the Middle East, specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, our desire to put together a united front with moderate Arab states like Jordan, our war against Al Qaeda and, finally, efforts to control Syria.
All of these undertakings are made more complicated and difficult by the Israeli attacks no matter how justified Israel feels they are. The Israelis have calculated they will benefit from pushing the border dispute to the front burner and have gained full U.S. support. The United States, however, needs any reduction in tension in the region. Thus our interests diverge.
What would be of most value to U.S. is for us to broker an immediate ceasefire using the leverage we have as Israel’s major ally. We would then need to be fully involved but separate from Israel in the search for a permanent solution.
It could also be argued that in the long run this is a policy that will benefit Israel since it now appears the Israeli military cannot deliver full victory nor can that nation’s reputation stand anymore attacks on U.N. observers or the bombings of refugee centers sheltering women and children. A U.N. official has already observed there is something fundamentally wrong about a war in which more children are killed than soldiers.