Everyone involved in or on the sidelines of the Middle East crisis is talking at cross-purposes, foremost Israel and the U.S. Israel is coming from a determination not to be pushed off the map; the U.S. yearns to "remake the Middle East". The Israelis don't want to know, and the U.S. doesn't understand that, however at odds among themselves they may seem to be, the rulers and peoples of the Middle East on the whole share two basic tenets: Israel is an intruder who in more than fifty years has not recognized its status; and the United States is both world policeman and world bully.
Hamas and Hezbollah represent a lot more than a thorn in the side of the conservative Middle Eastern rulers: they share a common resentment of American power and intrusiveness. And however much Sunnis and Shiites may detest each other, they are uniting against our plans for them and Israel's demand to essentially draw its own borders. Whoever heard of that?
It's not slip of the tongue that made Prime Minister Malaki condemn Israel and not Hezbollah while being received in the house of his benefactors. He is speaking for an entire region, as Saddam Hussein never could. To imagine that he would back down is naive. And for Senate Democrats like Charles Schumer to castigate him shows how thick is the Israeli wool over the eyes of American lawmakers - or how deep the diaspora's pockets.
If the Bush administration is incompetent, and the Democrats not only wimps, but also incompetent, we're in for a very rough time.
In the nineteen forties, we did not help European Jews in their hour of need, and we have been bending over backwards to make up for it ever since. Now we're on the wrong side of the issue again. Our media only tells the day's news, hence the American public thinks Hezbollah and Hamas fire rockets at Israel without cause: the immediate cause is that Israel has been building a Wall that shaves off yet more of what should be Palestinian territory on the West Bank before (what had been) a planned withdrawal from tha area; it is grouping settlements in the West Bank that should be evacuated so that they fall within Israeli borders. And having withdrawn from Gaza, it has continued to make life as difficult as possible for the Palestinians living there, rather than helping them build a viable economy.
These are the reasons why Hezbollah has declared it is ready for a decisive battle, and because Israel thinks it has the right to do these things, Israel's elder statesman Simon Perez declared today to the Knesset that "it's either them or us".
America's plan to build a democratic Middle East is foundering on its support for what used to be the only democratic country in the region. Israel may still have a democratically elected government, but its behavior has become less civilized than that of the other countries of the region.