I am not an expert in Middle Eastern politics, not by a long way. What I have found very interesting is the number of instant experts who have emerged over the last month or so, many of whom have a “solution” to the Middle Eastern question.
The one thing that links almost all of these people is the passion which underpins their views, and those views cross party political divides. An example of this was a dinner I had with three longstanding Army mates, all small c conservatives and two big C Conservatives (myself included). Even within this small sub-section of society the views ranged from very, very pro Israel to very anti Israel.
I don’t pretend to have any simple, easy solutions but here is my take on the situation.
Fault and blame. There are a lot of “whose fault is it” type questions floating around and the side of the fence that you sit on tends to go hand in hand with how long a view of history you wish to take. Clearly the current conflict flared when Hezbollah (Hizbollah?) captured (kidnapped?) Israeli soldiers last month. But this is linked to Israeli actions in south Lebanon, which themselves were linked to Hezbollah terrorist and rocket attacks in Israel, etc, etc, etc.
Proportionality. What is an appropriate and proportional response? It is easy to paint the Israeli responses as heavy handed, we asses their actions through our own moral filters. But would those filters change if we had been on the receiving end of daily rocket attacks and suicide bombs? It is worth remembering that Israel is bordered by a number of countries who have vowed to destroy it. The number of casualties is often put forward as proof of Israel’s disproportionate response. Yet yesterday Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, are the numbers of dead a reflection of intent or ability, what would be the Israeli death toll if the rockets were more accurate?
Black hats and white hats. When did we become so unsophisticated that we all started to divide Middle Eastern politics into the Janet and John simplicity of good guys and bad guys? I view Israel as a democratic state trying to exist and defend itself; it is not however without fault. Hezbollah are a terrorist organization existing as a state within a state and has targeted civilians for years, yet I am sure that there must be some people in it who have good within them somewhere.
End state. What would Israel be happy with? A quite life? Probably. A two state solution? Probably. What would Hezbollah be happy with? A quiet life? Probably. A two state solution? Probably not.
Think about that next time you jump to propose your simple solution.