When Not to Negotiate

It has been over two weeks since a group of Palestinian militants, including members of Hamas, broke through a tunnel they had burrowed from Gaza into Israel proper where they promptly killed two IDF soldiers and kidnapped a third. This brazen act ignited the strident Israeli response we have seen playing out in the pages of our newspapers.

All along, the coalition of terrorist groups holding Shalit have more or less guaranteed his safety and demanded that in exchange for his release Israel set free several hundred Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. The Palestinians had reason to believe Israel would acquiesce to their demands. As recently as early 2004, Israel agreed to a similar exchange with Hezbollah in which Israel released 400 Palestinian, 23 Lebanese and 12 Arab prisoners in exchange for one Israeli businessman and the bodies of three dead IDF soldiers.

Quite rightly, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has adamantly refused to accede to the current demands for the release of Cpl. Shalit. There have been some hints that Olmert is being pressured by some factions of his government to agree to the prisoner swap, but he has held a firm line on this issue.

If there was any doubt as to the wisdom of Olmert’s intransigence it was erased overnight when the Lebanese-based Hezbollah launched an across border raid on an Israeli army post.

According to The New York Times:

The fighting erupted when Hezbollah attacked northern Israel with rocket fire on Wednesday morning, injuring several Israeli civilians in the northwestern town of Shlomi, the Israeli military said. Israel responded with artillery fire and air strikes that targeted Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon. Later, Israeli troops moved into southern Lebanon in the first such incursion since Israel pulled its troops out of the region in 2000.

At some point during the skirmish Hezbollah apparently abducted two Israeli soldiers and brought them back into Lebanon. This was an unambiguous act of war across a sovereign border by a militant group that is not only a militant group but a member-party of the Lebanese government. This is why Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, was quick to say in a statement that the Lebanese government “is directly responsible for the fate of the soldiers and must act immediately to locate them, prevent any harm to them and return them to Israel.”

We can be sure of a few things in the coming days. Israel’s response to this two-front instigation will be harsh. Civilians will be killed (indeed, they already have), the cries that Olmert is unleashing excessive force will be immediately forthcoming. What is not clear to me is what those who inveigh against the Israeli response would have Olmert do differently?

Explore posts in the same categories: Israel/Palestine

One Comment on “When Not to Negotiate”

  1. EV Says:

    Agreed completely. Residents of northern towns are ordered into bomb shelters, and there’s absolute silence on the international stage. But when Israel responds to the act of war, the world will once again insist that the Jews are barbaric boozers of babies’ blood.

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