Friday, July 14, 2006

The War On Israel: Iran's Dirty Hands

New York Post: Editorial
Israel today finds itself waging an undeclared war on two fronts: in Lebanon, against the terrorists of Hezbollah, and in Gaza, against the terrorists of Hamas, who now run the Palestinian Authority government. But the real enemy - the one deliberately provoking an escalation of violence that could spark a Mideast conflagration at any moment - is not directly engaged in the current conflict. Make no mistake: The Islamic Republic of Iran is the one pulling the strings - certainly in Lebanon, and almost certainly in Gaza, as well.

Yesterday saw a dramatic ratcheting up of the action: READ MORE
  • Hezbollah fired more than 100 Katyushas and other rockets into northern Israel, including the major cities of Haifa and Safed. The attacks killed two Israeli civilians and wounded 35 plus.
  • The Israeli foreign ministry said it had "concrete evidence" that Hezbollah was trying to move two Israeli soldiers kidnapped Wednesday to Iran. (Tehran has done this before. Back in 1986, it "bought" captured Israeli airman Ron Arad from a Lebanese militia and shipped him to Iran. His fate, 20 years later, remains unknown.)
That news led Israel to impose a naval blockade on the Lebanese coast and its major ports, turning back three ships carrying fuel.
  • Israel vowed that if Lebanon's government continues to ignore a United Nations call for it to confront Hezbollah, "we shall not allow Hezbollah forces to remain any further on the borders of the state of Israel" - as they have with impunity since Israel evacuated southern Lebanon in 2000.
Israeli officials also promised that, if necessary, they are prepared to wage a long and painful military campaign to secure their nation's borders and protect its citizens.

As well they should.

As President Bush recognized, "Israel has the right to defend herself. Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life."

Underscoring that concern, Washington late yesterday vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel's incursion into Gaza.

There is no mistaking that this latest escalation was provoked unilaterally by Hezbollah and Hamas, which both kidnapped Israeli soldiers to hold for political ransom and rained missiles on Israeli civilians.

Much of the international community is indulging in its usual myopia and indifference when it comes to attacks against Israel. The European Union, though calling for the soldiers' release, yesterday condemned Israel for its "disproportionate" military response.

Would the Europeans rather have Israel move into Gaza and Lebanon and start taking hostages? That would be more "proportionate . . ."

But Hezbollah and Hamas don't act entirely on their own - especially when it comes to such large-scale attacks on Israel. Both are entirely dependent on Iran and Syria for financial and material support.

As the Israeli foreign ministry noted, Damascus is home to several major terrorist groups and leaders, including Khaled Meshaal, chief of Hamas. From there, Meshaal directs attacks on Israel from the Palestinian-controlled territories, including the firing of Kassam rockets against border towns.

Syria also provides key support to Hezbollah with the transfer of arms, personnel and munitions, both from regional airports and through border crossings into Lebanon, which was long under Syrian occupation.

For that reason, Israeli jets yesterday put Beirut's international airport out of commission and bombed the main highway linking Beirut and Damascus. And they dropped leaflets on the southern Beirut neighborhood where Hezbollah's leader, Sayyd Hassan Narallah, lives, warning residents there to clear out quickly.

As Israel's chief of staff warned, "Nothing is safe in Lebanon" as long as Israel's soldiers remain captive and Israel itself is under siege.

Yet it is Iran - which recently signed another mutual-defense pact with Syria - that is Hezbollah's chief benefactor, providing funding, weapons and leadership.

"For all practical purposes," say the Israelis, "Hezbollah is merely an arm of the Tehran jihadist regime," which also has made key inroads into Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza.

Which is what makes the timing of this terrorist onslaught against Israel so suspicious. It comes as Tehran faces a deadline to respond to demands that it cease its nuclear-weapons program or face unspecified sanctions.

And indeed, the focus of international concern on the eve of this weekend's G-8 summit has shifted from Tehran's nuclear ambitions to the explosive situation between Israel and its neighbors.

But this latest violence should only underscore the danger that Iran poses not only to Israel and the Middle East but to the entire world.

President Bush rightly labeled it a member of the Axis of Evil - a terror-sponsoring rogue regime that exports murder and mayhem against its enemies.

So-called pragmatists in the international community say Israel should make a deal, freeing thousands of terrorists held in its prisons for its captured soldiers. But the self-styled pragmatists ignore the reality that caving in to such demands only invites further acts of terrorism.

Israel, in particular, cannot afford to yield to demands from regimes - Hamas, Syria and Iran - that are publicly pledged to its destruction. No nation with any self-respect would be asked to shrug off such threats - especially when they are underscored with acts of unprovoked aggression.

To be sure, the answer to this situation cannot be found only through mili tary might. Diplomacy also is necessary - if other nations summon the will (which most thus far have not) to confront terrorism on a global scale and see it through until the terrorist threat is destroyed.

But if world leaders prefer appeasement, then Israel can't be faulted for doing whatever it deems necessary to eliminate the threat on its borders.

If that means taking on Iran when others are afraid - or unwilling - to do so, then so be it.