While pausing between intense politi-talk with Colleen on Sunday, I pondered a few issues.
Colleen grew up in the mountains beyond Beirut. She was raised Christian in a French-speaking home and her family exited Lebanon in her fifteenth year. She remembers the country's civil war and vividly recalls traveling by taxi from Beirut to Tel Aviv via Cairo in 1982 - months prior to Israel's arrival on the scene to root out PLO operatives.
She has family in Hamra - an upscale, culturally diverse West side area characterized by universities and home to the country's prime minister, Fouad Siniora. Her family recently evacuated.
Colleen and I discussed the region's history, the current incursion, the struggle of mainstream Arabs to live mainstream lives while surrounded by extremists and the sense among many Arab mainstreamers that the U.S. is vilifying Arabs and Islam in an attempt to suppress or eradicate the Arab world, leaving no choice but to identify with extremists who will fight for their ultimate survival.
The issue I pondered was Israel's role, my living in Holy Land Central and all. And while I am fully aware that the current war/conflict/incursion/offensive is much larger than a handful of kidnapped soldiers and several hundred rockets, it struck me full force while speaking with Colleen.
And I was perturbed: Is Israel akin to the kid in the classroom who the other kids agree to pick for their soccer (football) team only if he first takes out all the trash and cleans the blackboards? I read Yossi Ben-Ari's commentary and thought Bingo. This is about the U.S., Syria, Iran, global extremism, nuclear weapons, etc. etc. and Israel is the country getting its hands dirty. Israel can handle the condemnation, the criticism - mostly symbolic thus far - and being the fall guy. What's new?
Not that Israel is a completely reticent partner but I have been thinking about trade-offs, partnerships, deals and the price paid for receiving foreign aid and retaining certain weaponry privileges, wink wink. And what about costs of re-building?
For that matter, what about re-building Lebanon? That's a heart breaker, truly. Here they go again. It's a paradox and I don't claim to have the answer but Lebanese moderates are paying an incredibly heavy toll. And so are Israel's citizens and businesses. As Ben Ari notes, proxy maneuvers should be considered cautiously. Terms should be firm. It's no accident that Olmert looks so strung out.