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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hulk Stomp 

Bug-or-Feature Dept.: No one could possibly accuse our beloved ally Israel of not wanting peace (with justice) in the occupied territories, or of not pursuing it (or them) with the utmost vigor at every opportunity. Yet, despite decades of intensive good-faith efforts, peace (with justice) has never eventuated. We have traditionally blamed this state of affairs on the mysterious intractability, probably genetic, of the Palestinian people, but in studying the horrific events of the last week-and-change we found ourselves wondering whether the various Israeli peace initiatives might not share share some common flaw. As it turns out, we think they do, and this is it:

Whatever the plan, it typically grants each individual Palestinian effective veto power. Israel demands, quite rightly, that each and every dispossessed Palestinian refugee, Hamas sympathizer, Hezbollah sympathizer, Iranian agitator, and/or Syrian agitator comport himself peacefully. The consequences of doing otherwise, they have made clear, will be swift and dire. Yet, as our own Department of Defense can attest, every group has its Bad Apples, and the groups we have just named are no exception: quite the contrary, in fact. The unfortunate result is that any disgruntled ideologue who can set off a bomb, lift a rifle, or toss a rock has it within his power to scuttle months, even years, of hard diplomatic work, forcing Israel to respond, as it apparently must, because it always does, with attacks on civilian infrastructure, collective punishment, targeted assassinations, and military strikes that, regrettably, leave large numbers of non-combatants dead. Old-style thinkers who persist in subscribing to the pre-9/11 notion that international law might apply to the United States, its allies, or its clients, sometimes frown on these admittedly stern measures, but they are, of course, legitimate acts of self-defense -- unlike the depredations of the Palestinians, which occur in an historical vacuum, and arise, we can only assume, from a deep-seated, probably genetic, hatred of peace. (Or perhaps from a perverse desire to be crushed underfoot by the most powerful military force in the region.)

To put it succinctly: Israel, in its generosity of spirit, has ceded far too much power. Why should such a mighty nation allow the actions of one scraggly lunatic, or one ragtag band of scraggly lunatics, to get under its skin so deeply? -- to throw it off its game so completely? -- to deprive it of the peace (with justice) it so genuinely craves? -- possibly even to lure it, and its allies, and the rest of the world, into a broader war with Iran and Syria, thereby breaking poor William Kristol's heart? If we didn't know better, we'd almost think they were trying to provoke a provocation -- like some put-upon Bruce Banner who feigns meekness and guilt, but secretly craves the extra punch that will turn him into the rampaging Hulk.

Now that we've identified the problem, however, we are quite sure that the cool heads of Israel will heed our wise counsel and find a fix. At least for a couple of years, anyway. By then, with any luck, Mr. Bush and his cronies will have been deposed, the mensches will be back in charge, and the prospect of Armageddon will seem considerably less imminent.

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