New York – Many Israeli and Jewish leaders believed and predicted that if Israel made the major concessions of leaving the Jewish area of Gaza and northern Samaria and remove 10,000 Jews, in addition to leaving the 11-mile wide Lebanese buffer zone, the world would strongly support any future military action Israel would need to take in response to any future missile or terrorist attacks. Nevertheless and sadly, this has not been the case.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has pointed to international criticism of Israel for its military response to the recent attacks upon it from Lebanon as proving that supporters of Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza were wrong to argue that foreign governments would be more supportive in the future of Israels need to defend itself from terrorists. Last week, the Lebanese Islamist terrorist group, Hezbollah, started carrying out attacks upon Israel which have resulted in the deaths of eight Israeli soldiers, the kidnapping of two more, and a barrage of rockets upon Haifa, Afula, Nahariyah, Safed, Karmiel, Hatzor and Majd el-Kurum, Nahariya, Yesod Hamaala, Baram, Kiryat Shmona, Mahanayim, Horfesh, Biranit, Meron, Maalot, Matat, near Rosh Pina, Sasa, Karmiel, Pkiin, Misgav Am, Shar Yishuv and near Kibbutz Hagoshrim and Kibbutz Maayan Baruch. Hundreds of missiles have been fired into Israel, killing tens of civilians and wounding hundreds more.
In the period preceding Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, senior Israeli government officials, including then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated that Israel would reap greater international support and understanding of its need to respond to terrorist attacks after carrying out the withdrawal. Sharon stated that this was his view in a meeting with American Jewish leaders in Washington, DC, in April 2005. Senior Sharon advisor, Dov Weisglass, said the same thing in a meeting with American Jewish leaders in September 2005. Israels Ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon, addressing the ZOA Mission to Washington, DC, in June 2005, said that Israel believed that its security needs and right to self-defense would be better appreciated and supported internationally because of this unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
In fact, Israels military response in southern Lebanon this week following the Hezbollah incursions and missile strikes upon northern Israel has been strongly criticized:
- EU foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana: The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel … The presidency deplores the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified (New York Times, July 13).
- Statement by Russia: One cannot justify the continued destruction by Israel of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and in Palestinian territory, involving the disproportionate use of force in which the civilian population suffers. (New York Times , July 13).
- Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Kamynin: The continued destruction of civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and the disproportionate use of force by Israel, which causes suffering to the civilian population, can be neither understood nor justified (Haaretz, July 14).
- British Prime Minister Tony Blair: I … understand the plight of Lebanon and the Lebanese government, not to say the many Palestinians that are suffering as well (Agence France-Presse, July 4).
- German Deputy Government Spokesman Jens Ploetner: We ask our Israeli friends and partners not to lose sight of the long-term consequences when they exercise this right [to self-defense]. Here we think care should be taken about the situation in Lebanon, which is a fragile entity as a state and could be further destabilized (Agence France-Presse, July 14).
- French President Jacques Chirac: One may well ask if there isnt today a kind of wish to destroy Lebanon — its infrastructure, its roads, its communications, its energy, its airport. And for what? I find honestly — as all Europeans do – that the current reactions are totally disproportionate (Agence France-Presse, July 14).
- French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy: We obviously condemn this disproportionate act of war, which moreover has two consequences. The first is that it forces anyone who wants to enter Lebanon from now on to go either by sea or via Syria. The second consequence is that it risks plunging Lebanon back into the worst years of the war (New York Times, July 13).
- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: In my view, Israel is making a mistake. It will only lead to an escalation of the violence (Agence France-Presse, July 14).
- Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi: We deplore the escalation in the use of force, the serious damage to Lebanese infrastructure and the civilian casualties of the raids (Agence France-Presse, July 14).
- Vatican Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano: The Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign country who had already suffered in defence of their independence (Agence France-Presse, July 14).
- EU Development Commissioner, Louis Michel: Disproportionate attacks are not useful. I regret the fact that the reaction was disproportionate (Haaretz, July 14).
- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono: Indonesia repeats its call for Israel to stop its military action (Agence France-Presse, July 14).
Additionally, a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council calling for an end to Israeli military action and Israels allegedly disproportionate use of force received 10 affirmative votes and four abstentions and only failed because it was vetoed by the US, the only country to vote against it.
Also troubling was the statement issued by the G-8 (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States) which, while understandably calling for the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and an end to missile and rocket attacks upon Israel, also called for Israel to exercise the utmost restraint, and end to Israeli military operations and the early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza … the release of the arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians … a resumption of security cooperation and of a political engagement both among Palestinians and with Israel … [and] Resumption of dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli political officials. This amounts to calling upon Israel to initiate security cooperation and negotiations with and release members of the terrorist Hamas/Palestinian Authority (PA) regime which has kidnapped and attacked Israelis. The G-8 also welcomed an examination by the UN Security Council of the possibility of an international security/monitoring presence, even though UN peacekeeping forces in the past have not behaved as impartial peacekeepers or stopped assaults upon Israel from Lebanon. The G-8 also called upon Israel to ease Palestinian freedom of movement, something which could aid the terrorists and as a result endanger Israeli civilians.