Keeping with my rule about making the most of anything I write, here's a blog version of the Gaza editorial I wrote for today's paper:
is natural goal for
both U.S., Israel
THE DEATH OF INNOCENT women and children among the 40 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli mortar fire outside a United Nations school on Tuesday is a tragedy that should appall decent people everywhere, as it has done.
Apart from the personal devastation that spreads from the loss of any human life, each death of a Palestinian noncombatant strengthens the terrorists of Hamas and their sponsors in Iran, and damages Israeli security by undermining what few vestiges of concern remain in foreign capitals for Israel and its legitimate interests. It’s a lose-lose-lose proposition for anyone who hopes for a day when Israelis and Palestinians coexist in peace.
But what were the Israeli Defense Forces shooting at? Well, they were shooting back at the Hamas fighters who were firing mortars at IDF troops from the school compound. Why were the Hamas fighters shooting at the Israelis? Because the Israelis had entered the Gaza strip to attack Hamas. Why? Because Hamas was firing as many as 60 rockets a day into Israel with the intent of killing as many innocent Israeli civilians as possible. Why? Because Hamas and its Iranian sponsors are dedicated to the idea that Israel should cease to exist. Anything that furthers that goal, from killing Israelis to baiting Israel into killing innocent Palestinians whom Hamas fighters use as shields, is what Hamas will do.
The best thing for Hamas, with its nihilist aims, is for the killing to continue. The best thing for Israel, and for its chief ally the United States, is for it to end as quickly as possible. At the same time, the deaths that have occurred on either side in recent days truly would have happened for naught if Israel does not achieve the realistic military goal of reducing Hamas’ ability to fire rockets from northern Gaza into Israel.
Does this mean that foreign governments are wrong to press Israel for a cease-fire — that is, for a cease-fire that lasts longer than the three-hour one on Thursday? No, for the simple fact that Israel is the only combatant in this conflict that is susceptible to international pressure. It’s the only party that can be expected to respond rationally — “rationally” in a conventional modern, civilized sense — to diplomatic pressure.
That’s why the United States must and will work not only for an end to this battle, but for an end to the overall Arab-Israeli conflict, which has morphed into a conflict between Israel and Iranian surrogates. But not even a short-term resolution to the battle for Gaza seems likely to come on the Bush administration’s watch.
Speaking of that, the simple explanation for Israel’s incursion into Gaza is that it is doing so while it still has a staunch friend in the White House. As with most simple explanations, there is truth in that. At the same time, anyone who thinks the United States will no longer align itself with Israel’s long-term interests just because the president’s name is Barack Hussein Obama is as deluded as someone who assumes that this country will be vehemently anti-Palestinian because Rahm Emanuel’s father belonged to a Zionist insurgent group that fought (sometimes using terrorist tactics, for those of you with an inexhaustible appetite for moral ambiguity) to establish the modern state of Israel.
Peace and security for Israel will continue to be a top priority for the United States under President Obama. And nothing will further that cause better — or frustrate Hamas and Iran more — than working through every diplomatic means to end quickly the killing of innocents on both sides.
Beyond that, as you know, we have no op-ed pages on Fridays these days. I've tried to compensate for that somewhat by choosing a syndicated op-ed piece to run in what would normally be the staff-written-column slot at the bottom of the page (unless we have a staff column that just has to run that day).
The two best such columns available to me yesterday were both about Gaza — this one from Nicholas Kristof, and this one from Charles Krauthammer. The argument in favor of the Kristof column is that it was leaned a little less pro-Israel than our editorial thereby providing some sort of "balance" to the editorial (not the sort of "balance" that frankly pro-Palestinian folks such as our own Michael Berg might offer, but more the kind you get from the mainstream of liberal thought).
The argument in favor of the Krauthammer piece (which was pro-Israel and then some), was that it was fresh and new. The Kristof piece had run in The New York Times that morning. The Krauthammer one was embargoed until Friday, and therefore would appear in The Washington Post at the same time it appeared in The State, and would appear nowhere else before that.
I have a prejudice toward fresh, especially when it's for a special spot such as this one, even more than for a run-of-the-mill op-ed appearance. (Add to that the fact that I'm still figuring out this business of putting syndicated pieces in a place normally reserved for staff opinion. The op-ed page is clearly a place for alternative opinion, especially that which differs with the editorial board's view — as is the Letters to the Editor portion of the editorial page, by long tradition, as is the cartoon space; Robert Ariail is NOT a board member. But when the column is running in a space normally reserved for board member's personal views, is it more logical and consistent to have a differing, "balancing" view — especially since there's no op-ed that day — or one that is closer to the board position? As I say, I haven't decided that. But in this case, the freshness argument was enough for me.)
But rather than deprive you of the Kristof piece, I put it online, and put a box in the paper letting you know it was there. My little way of having it both ways. Yours, too.