ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to recent attacks
A rocket fired from Gaza on the Israeli city of Ashkelon, rockets fired from Sinai on Aqaba and Eilat, the Lebanese army opening fire on members of the Israeli Defense Forces along the border. The chain of seemingly unrelated recent trouble demonstrates the physics principle of connected vessels and how it applies to the Middle East. Efforts to resume direct Israeli talks with the Palestinians, the special tribunal for Lebanon and Iran's omnipresent nuclear program are bubbling away in the neighborhood cauldron that can spill in various directions when it boils over.
For the present, it suits most to contain things at a low simmer. Gaza and Lebanon are still smarting from previous wars with Israel, which hasn't entirely recovered publicly or diplomatically from the military misadventures either. Jordan and Egypt, Israel's neighbors in peace, need discreet industrial calm, each for their own reasons, and Israel too needs to conserve its energy for challenges around the corner, like the nearing end of the settlement freeze, which might entail a change in the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are testifying next week before the Turkel commission investigating the events surrounding Israel's May 31 attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Recent events serve as a reminder of the area's fragile arrangements and porous borders, and the fine line separating small snafus from big summer snarls. All around, it seems a time for choosing battles.
Don't test our resolve, Netanyahu warned Wednesday evening, responding to the different incidents. In recent days, "we've witnessed three criminal attacks against Israel," he said. "I want to make clear to Hamas and to the Lebanese government, whom we hold responsible for the violent provocation against our soldiers: Do not test our resolve to defend Israel's citizens and soldiers."
Netanyahu stressed that the IDF soldiers operating along the northern border were operating within Israeli territory. Separately, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that members of the Lebanese Armed Forces opening fire was "wholly unjustified and unwarranted." Israel has issues with the American military aid to Lebanon, and Israeli defense officials said already a year ago that they were "not happy" with the extensive support, which they feared could fall into the hands of Hezbollah. Israel would like to believe the incident was an isolated, one-time eruption, but will likely become more wary of the LAF and its affiliations.
As for the rockets fired at Eilat and Aqaba, Netanyahu said that an investigation of the assault this and a similar incident in April, when "supposedly anonymous" elements fired rockets, finds "without doubt" that Hamas' military branch was behind both attacks. Using the territory of a third, peace-seeking country to launch missiles at Israel will not help Hamas escape responsibility, Netanyahu said, stating that Israel regards gravely the attack on its citizens as well as the attempt to harm its relations with Egypt and Jordan.
"Israel will reach whoever fires on its citizens and strike with force, regardless of where they fired from," the prime minister said in a statement in Hebrew Wednesday evening. Separately, in English, he called on the international community to condemn the attacks and support Israel's right to defend itself "against those who attack the innocent and seek to destroy peace."
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem.
Above: Danger, downward slope. Credit: Wikimedia Commons