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Ira Sharkansky



Lebanon battling refocuses Israel's
attention from the Katzav scandal, July 12, 2006

By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM Yesterday we woke up to a competition between Israeli newspapers. Each had its list of women who had worked with President Moshe Katzav, and were talking about sexual harassment. For the third day in a row, the Ha'aretz cartoon focused on him: this one had him asking the attorney general if he could pardon himself. The attorney general ordered a police investigation of the president's charge that a woman was threatening blackmail. The investigation seems likely to spread beyond that. Commentators are saying that they have known about the president's inclinations for years, but they lacked a trigger that could begin an expose. Applicants for the position should send their resumes to the Knesset.
By 9:30 AM the president dropped from the headlines. Israel was at war with Lebanon. Today the Ha'aretz cartoon shows a middle age reservist putting on his uniform, and telling his wife that he would call from Beirut. The radio is reporting that the Israeli airforce has bombed Beirut's airport, and closed it to traffic. Potential visitors will have to fly to Cyprus, and either take a boat or swim. I would not count on Lebanon's sea ports being open for long, and visitors had better bring a flashlight. Some of the power stations have already been damaged. Ground transport will not be easy. Bridges are dropping by the hour.
This is likely to be difficult. Israel is formally holding the Lebanese government responsible for the attack that killed 8 soldiers, took two wounded soldiers prisoner, and wounded additional soldiers as well as civilians. However, it recognizes that the Lebanese government cannot deal with Hezbollah, which comprises a well-armed state within a state, enjoys support from Syria and Iran, and is part of the Islamic alliance that includes Hamas, and spreads from Indonesia westward. Just this morning I heard of its outpost in Madison, Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin is justifying the appointment of a teacher who is a convert to Islam, and teaches, among other things, that 9-11 was a Christian-Jewish conspiracy to begin a war against Islam. Somewhere in his writing is a claim that George Bush is waging a campaign against religion. (For documentation see and .) My two older kids have UW BAs along with Phi Beta Kappa; my PhD is from the place; and I used to take pride in having been a professor there. Now I would urge potential students to think of some other university, on the assumption that they could find an American campus that pursues a form of academic freedom protected from wildness.
Israel's campaign against Lebanon will not be free of cost. Hezbollah katushas are still falling on the north. Residents are told to stay in shelters. There are injuries and at least one death from rockets in Nahariya. There are missiles of longer range, supplied and manned by Iran, that can reach most of Israel. Among the unknowns are: Will Iran fire those? Will Israel seek to neutralize them? Will Hezbollah's targeting of civilians in Israel lead Israel to alter its policy of not targeting civilians, or take a more moderate course of continuing to target military and infrastructure targets, but being less concerned with collateral damage? Insofar as the Palestinians are still firing their more primitive rockets at civilians, similar changes could also occur on Israel's southern front. Will Israel go further afield, after the Syrian and Iranian sources of the mayhem? Will all this be the trigger for a regional war? And if so, what will Uncle George do?
Egypt and Jordan recognize the danger to themselves from an empowered Islam, and they are not happy with events. They have tried to mediate , without success. Currently they are part of the international chorus urging restraint. All that is makes the same impression as elevator music.

Sharkansky is an emeritus member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem