Partners for Progressive Israel commends Zahava Gal-On, Meretz party leader, for her statement calling upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to act responsibly to de-escalate the current crisis with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern frontier with Lebanon. In view of the current controversy over Israeli actions during the Gaza war, the Prime Minister’s threat to carry out retribution on the scale of the Gaza war is particularly reckless and irresponsible.
We join her in extending our condolences to the families of the soldiers, Major Yochai Kalangel and Staff Sergeant Dor Nini, killed by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile, and we also mourn the death of a Spanish UN peacekeeping soldier in consequent Israeli retaliatory shelling. At the same time we note that Hezbollah’s attack is in response to an ill-considered Israeli assault in Syria on January 18 that killed five of Hezbollah’s militants and an Iranian general with them on the ground.
This tit-for-tat policy toward Hezbollah is the same policy Netanyahu applied to Hamas that led to the war last summer. Today Prime Minister Netanyahu guarantees that those responsible for the latest attack will pay a heavy price. In fact, his guarantees only serve to stir up national furor aimed not at helping Israel heal from loss, but in exacting revenge. This is cynicism, not leadership.
Mr. Netanyahu’s latest threats are not the first example of such irresponsible behavior in recent weeks. The Israeli Prime Minister has further endangered Israel’s standing with its most important ally, the United States, by crudely interposing himself into American partisan politics and accepting an ill-considered invitation to address Congress issued by the Republican Speaker of the House without the involvement or even notification of the White House. Responsible politicians in Israel, whatever their party, need to join in restraining a Prime Minister who, in his efforts to insure his own re-election, plays fast and loose with his nation’s interests.
A war at this point is in the interest of none of the parties. We call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to recognize that, in such a heavily armed context, over-reaching can lead to a full scale and pointless conflict, as has happened many times before.
While I agree that it’s important to avoid tit-for-tat escalation, I don’t think that air attacks on Hezbollah forces in Syria was wrong — if they were, in fact, moving missiles or other offensive weaponry into Lebanon (as feared). Hopefully, the situation has deescalated now, and will remain calm.