[First published in the October 2006 issue of commentarymagazine.com, reprinted with permission].
The outcome of this summer’s war between Israel and Hizballah was confused and confusing. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared a military success, and then appointed a commission to determine what had gone wrong. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizballah, proclaimed a glorious victory, and then explained that he would never have ordered the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers if he had thought there was “even a one-percent chance” it would lead to war. To Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hizballah’s victory showed that Syria, too, should follow the path of war with Israel—or at least that is what he said before assuring Kofi Annan he would embargo any arms shipments to Hizballah. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the fire-breathing president of Iran, which had supplied the missiles Hizballah rained down upon Israel, averred that his country was “not a threat to any state, not even the Zionist regime.”
With such mixed messages emanating from the parties directly involved, it is still too early to “score” this war or foretell its consequences. Nonetheless, from watching the drama unfold one could draw certain inferences, the most important of which may help explain why the Arab-Israel conflict, despite all the pain it has caused, is still so difficult to resolve. In particular, this war brought into bold relief the political dynamics within the Arab world that militate against those who would like to have some form of peace with Israel and in favor of those who would block it.
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