Leading article: The onus is on Mr Olmert


This newspaper is pro-Israeli. We support the right of the state of Israel to exist, and sympathise with the Israeli people, who live in fear of terrorists who are intent on killing civilians indiscriminately. We share the frustration of the Israeli government: having withdrawn from Gaza and, longer ago, from southern Lebanon, terrorists are now using both territories to fire rockets into residential districts.

It is precisely because we are pro-Israeli, however, that we are so critical of the response of Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, to terrorist attacks. In both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, Mr Olmert has elected to impose collective punishment on entire populations for the sins of a tiny minority. This response is utterly counter-productive at almost every level - except in the shortest of terms with domestic Israeli opinion. It is counter-productive, first, on the ground. Hizbollah is not exactly popular in Lebanon, although it draws on general anti-Israeli sentiment. That sentiment has been greatly increased by the bombing of bridges, fuel stores and the airport, and the inevitable collateral civilian casualties.

If the Lebanese government was ineffective in policing Hizbollah before, the question of whether this one-sided aerial offensive will strengthen its resolve is irrelevant: it still lacks the capacity. In Gaza, the terrorists enjoy greater support from the Palestinian population - Hamas, an organisation committed to the destruction of Israel and to the use of suicide bombing against civilians to achieve it, has just been elected to govern the Palestinian Authority. Yet the Israeli response only hardens that support.

On the world stage, too, Israel is damaging itself. It should be in a strong position. The United Nations has instructed the Lebanese government to root out Hizbollah. The international community - including the US - stands ready to support a secure and viable Palestinian state if it is prepared to live in peace with Israel. Yet all this is undermined by the appearance - indeed, the reality - of Israel bullying its neighbours by force of superior arms.

Israel used to be admired for the skill, daring and intelligence with which it fought for its national survival; now it is regarded as a regional military power blindly incomprehending of and insensitive to the injustices it has visited on the Palestinian people.

No one suggests that the Israelis should simply accept the rain of terrorist rockets, or the reign of suicide bombers, or the kidnapping of its soldiers. Yet a proportionate response is essential to winning the wider battle for world opinion, on which the ultimate prospects for security - for both Israelis and Palestinians - depend.

For all Hizbollah's loud-mouthed talk of "open war", everyone knows (a) that it is incapable of waging such a thing, and (b) that the Israelis, after their occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, have no appetite for resuming an asymmetrical land war.

Regional war is not in prospect, but the long term looks as bleak as ever if Israel and its enemies remain locked in this self-destructive spiral. It will be broken only if Israel exercises restraint. If George Bush were a true friend of Israel, he would urge Mr Olmert to do so.

And he would put meaningful and sustained pressure on America's ally to stop building illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Until then, genuine friends of both the Israelis and the Palestinians can only mourn the wilful determination of leaderships on both sides to make an eventual settlement ever less likely.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine