These are stark times in both Israel and Lebanon. Around the world the media is devoting much ink and air time to this sorry chapter, as it unfolds. Columns are filled and reports are filed by well-meaning intellectuals who have scant experience of the Middle East and vast quantities of wise counsel. Israel’s actions, it is claimed, ratcheting tension, fanning the hate and encouring global terrorism. And on it goes.
But enough is enough. The time is nigh for some sober stocktaking.
At issue here is not Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands; it is about a deep seated, visceral hatred which informs and pervades radical Islam. The fact is that for Hizbullah, as well as Hamas, Israel's willingness to make territorial concessions and reach political compromises is irrelevant. Their hate for Israel and their opposition to its existence is total, utter and unrelenting. No amount of overtures, sacrifice or denial will change this grim fact.
Three major Israeli attempts to reach accommodation in the last 13 years have not worked. The Oslo Agreements ended in Arafat's rejection of Barak’s offer of a final settlement, which promptly ignited the second intifada. Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 only served to boost Hezbollah's confidence and consolidate its control there; and the withdrawal from Gaza, which looked set to herald a new era of sanity, has unleashed madness.
Last week Hizbullah terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory, killed three soldiers and kidnapped two, bringing the number of kidnapped soldiers to three. Throughout the day they rained Katyusha rockets and mortar shells at Israel's northern cities, including Nahariya and Haifa. What country would not react to such provocation?
Prime Minister Howard was right to describe Israel's reaction to the raids as justified, because that is exactly what they were. The Lebanese government has only itself to blame for allowing Hizbollah - aided and abetted by Iran - to maintain a permanent armed presence in southern Lebanon, despite UN resolution 1559 calling for the disbanding of all militias in that country.
The international community can condemn Israel for overreacting, but it is time for us all to wake up from our reverie. This conflict is not about land for peace: it is about hate for hate. It's not about burying the hatchet, but burying innocent civilians. And it is not just in Israel. The Madrid train bombings, Theo Van Gogh's murder, the London bombing, riots in France, decapitations of Westerners in Iraq, stabbing of cartoonists, preaching of hatred by European imams, the murder of hundreds of children in Beslan...and on it goes. It has been a rude awakening.