Katyusha Karmiel 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Given that hundreds of rockets have rained down on Israel in the past three days, the death toll here can be considered relatively, mercifully, low. Nonetheless, a growing number of families - relatives of slain civilians, soldiers and sailors - are in mourning.
All Israelis are feeling the pain of these families, as well as the one quarter of our population, from Haifa to Safed to Tiberias, who are under orders to remain in or near bomb shelters to protect them from further Hizbullah attacks. Nor have we forgotten the residents of Sderot and other southern towns which continue to be targeted by Hamas's Kassam rockets.
We also wish to strengthen the hands of our forces which are still fighting on land, from the sea, and in the air to destroy our attackers. We cannot thank them, our children, enough for their bravery and sacrifice.
At a time like this, we would like to be in a position to thank free nations, which we might expect would naturally come to the side of a country under unprovoked attack from some of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world. Unfortunately, the leader of only one nation, the United States, President George Bush, has been unequivocal in his support for Israel's position, and even his Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, has pointedly called for Israeli "restraint."
This implied and preemptive US criticism is, of course, mild compared to the international chorus that is already condemning Israel for its "disproportionate response." On Thursday, the US vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution that would have, in a surreal reversal of time and moral culpability, first condemned Israel's "military assault" on Gaza and secondly "also the firing of rockets into Israel and the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza, and the recent abduction and killing of an Israeli civilian in the West Bank."
The US veto came on numerous grounds, including that the resolution related only to Gaza, even though the Hizbullah-Iranian offensive had already begun.
It will be long remembered by this country that the UN could even consider such a lopsided resolution at a time when Israeli civilians were being killed over an international border that it had fully recognized. Though the US cast a lone "no" vote, it is the majority of 10 nations - including France, Russia, and China - which should be ashamed of their stance, as should the UK, which could only muster an abstention.
On Friday, a separate emergency debate began in the Security Council over the situation in Lebanon. "Many of the long-range missiles that have hit Israeli townsâ€¦were launched from private homes, with families residing inside," Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman noted. "This is yet another example of the cynical and brutal way that Hizbullah uses civilians as human shields, with complete disregard for human life."
The US veto and the opening of a new debate on Lebanon offer the opportunity of correcting some of the damage done by the disgraceful draft resolution on Gaza. There could be no more clear-cut case of international aggression than the cross-border attack on Israel from Lebanon.
Yesterday, 18 Arab foreign ministers gathered for an emergency meeting in Cairo heard their Saudi counterpart call Hizbullah-Iranian attacks "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts." He continued, "These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them." The Saudi stance was reportedly supported by Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and even the Palestinian Authority.
Syria led another group of Arab nations, including the Lebanese government, which attempted to support the attacks as "legitimate resistance against occupation," but for once, even most Arab nations are not playing along.
This situation presents the international community with an opportunity to play a constructive role. Rather than constantly fending off resolutions that make matters worse, the US, France and the UK should introduce a UN Security Council Resolution that condemns the aggression against Israel from Lebanon, supported by Syria and Iran, and explicitly recognizes Israel's right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
By all rights, such a resolution should also recognize the extraordinary efforts Israel has taken to minimize the loss of civilian lives in Lebanon, despite Hizbullah's attempt to maximize such losses by placing its missiles in civilian areas. Such a resolution would put the full burden where it belongs, on the aggressor, thereby deterring such reckless attacks in the future.