28 DEC 2008
Gaza air strikes - who is to blame?
So far, so predictable. Those who were already anti-Israel, blame Israel. Those who sympathise with the Middle East's only liberal democracy, point out that the air raids followed months of provocative rocket attacks. Often the reaction of commentators tells us more about their prejudices, than about who might actually be to blame for the bloodshed.
Might it be that in fact it's neither Palestinian nor Israeli that is primarily to blame, but Iran?
It is a striking fact about the Israel / Arab conflict that Israel has been willing and able to come to peaceful terms with those of her neighbours run by governing authorities in a position to negotiate. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, even, perhaps, the West Bank. All have been able to come to some sort of understanding - however brittle - with Israel.
Yet two territories, Gaza and southern Lebanon, are not controlled by governing authorities subjected to the usual domestic constraints and pressures. A government in Amman or Cairo, like all governments, has to weigh up competing priorities. This mitigates towards pragmatism and has acted as a constraint – and helps explain why eventually such governments have preferred to find a negotiated solution.
Yet thanks to the pernicious influence of Iran, neither Hamas nor Hezbollah is constrained by ordinary pragmatism. Iran’s influence seems to be the defining factor in explaining when and if there is peace between Israel and her neighbours. In building proxy armies on Israel’s borders, Iran has helped build up proxy authorities whose raison d'etre is to reject Israel.
Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe Iran's influence over Hamas is marginal. But part of me thinks that if the people of Gaza and south Lebanon were free from the influence of Tehran, they'd eventually want leaders - like those in Cairo and Jordan - who were able to find some sort of accommodation with their neighbour - not yet more endless, bitter, destructive violence.
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