Peace in Israel — and around it

Peace in Israel — and around it

It wasn’t so long ago that Time magazine carried a shocking, and inaccurate, headline on its cover, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.”
We said this at the time that provocative issue came out, but it bears repeating: Israel does care about peace. If it didn’t, Egypt wouldn’t have Sinai; the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t control Gaza; then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak would not have made a generous peace offer at Camp David and current PM Benjamin Netanyahu would not be offering peace talks without preconditions.
Enough said about that.
This week, we want to talk about peace around Israel. And don’t kid yourself: the internal peace and security of the Jewish state’s neighbors is almost as important to her future as her direct relations with those countries.
For a solid year now, the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been waging war on its own people. And the news only gets worse, culminating this past weekend with United Nations reports that more than 90 people in and around the Syrian area of Houla, including 32 children under the age of 10, were killed.
And, as the Chronicle’s contributing Middle East analyst Danny Brode reports on page 8 of this week’s issue (co-written with his colleague, Roger FarHat), the fighting is spilling over into Lebanon.
This is a situation that threatens to draw Israel into the conflict. Remember last year when Assad, in an attempt to divert attention from his own war crimes, incited, maybe even paid, mobs to rush and breach the Israeli border along the Golan Heights? And it wasn’t so long ago when Lebanon, a lawless country embroiled by civil war, was a staging ground for Palestinian terrorists launching strikes on Israel. It doesn’t take too much imagination to envision that happening again, only this time with better-armed, well-trained Hezbollah militia launching the attacks.
Israel can’t afford much longer to sit on the sidelines, a conclusion it now seems the government is reaching. Reuters reported March 4 that the Israeli Foreign Ministry proposed passing aid to Syria via the International Committee of the Red Cross. In making that offer, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “We need to set all political considerations aside. What is happening there, in the 21st century, is intolerable. We must render assistance. Whatever is necessary, whatever will be asked of us we can provide.”
We don’t normally agree with Lieberman, but that time he was dead-on.
In the past, this paper has advocated caution with regard to the crisis in Syria, not knowing what regime might follow Assad — perhaps one even more hard-line and anti-Israel. That remains a real possibility. But Syria is now slipping into chaos, and the fighting is spilling over her borders. Greater action is needed to check the danger — for the sake of Israel’s peace and security as well as her neighbors’.