The present crisis in the Middle East is a bitter
disappointment to those of us who had high hopes that the Israeli withdrawal
from Gaza would be matched by a comparable
willingness by the Palestinians and their sponsors to find a peaceful
settlement. Instead we have seen a determination by Hamas and Hezbollah, backed
by Syria and Iran respectively, to provoke
a crisis and plunge the region back into conflict.

Hamas has taken Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza as a licence to shell
Israeli towns and then to kidnap an Israeli soldier, knowing that this would
provoke Israeli retaliation. Hezbollah then took advantage of this situation to
re-open attacks on Israel from its safe haven in Lebanon, from which Israel withdrew in 2000. Israeli
towns are now being hit by advanced al-Fajr missiles supplied to Hezbollah by
the regime in Iran, which is pledged to
destroy Israel.

I have every sympathy for the long-suffering people of
Lebanon, and for the civilians of
Gaza for that matter. But their current
suffering has been brought about solely by the determination of Syria and Iran and their Palestinian protégées
to continue to wage war against Israel, in defiance of the UN
Security Council and the international community.

Israel has the same right as any
sovereign state to defend itself against armed attacks, whether by neighbouring
states or by terrorist gangs hiding among civilian populations. Only when Hamas
accepts Israel’s right to exist, and
only when Lebanon disarms Hezbollah on its
territory as the UN has required, can progress towards a two-state solution and
a peaceful future for all the peoples of the Middle East be resumed.

Peter Fray

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