At Last, A Ceasefire

After five weeks of battle and bloodshed at incredible cost, both human and material, the international community has finally taken an important step toward halting a war that should never have been allowed to go on for so long. It now to be hoped that neither side will violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.

Has Israel won this war? Most Israelis, according to an August 11 Haaretz poll, do not believe that Israel has won, though they don't believe it has lost it either. Israel has paid a dear price for this war, and unless the ceasefire is followed by a bold diplomatic initiative, it has won, at best, nothing more than a few months or years of respite before the next round of battle with Hezbollah.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has long been a destabilizing factor in Israeli-Arab relations and a lightening rod for militant extremism, must be resolved in order to bring peace to the region. But it is also imperative that the international community, which realizes that Hezbollah is more than just Israel's problem, seek a comprehensive resolution of all outstanding conflicts between Israel and its neighbors.

The achievement of the UN ceasefire demonstrates the influence the US still wields when it commits to diplomacy. It remains to be seen whether our government will fall back into inaction, will use Hezbollah's threat to Israel as a pretext for widening the conflict with Iran, or will take leadership as a broker for peace in the region.

There are important lessons from the destruction in Lebanon and northern Israel, as well as the continuing and lamentable violence in Gaza and southern Israel. First, we have learned that Israel's military deterrence against Hezbollah and Hamas today is ineffective. All of Israel's military responses to non-state militias have served only to make the enemy stronger in part by increasing popular support for them.

Second, we have seen once again that the existence of the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tinderbox waiting to explode into a wider war.

Third, we have witnessed the pitfalls of unilateral, non-negotiated withdrawal, which, as has been seen in both south Lebanon and Gaza, creates a power vacuum that is easily filled by extremists.

Finally, we have seen the singular power of the United States to influence Israel's actions and, therefore, its future well-being.

What emerges from Israel's Second Lebanon War is the centrality of the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the benefit of the region, and to demand that our government take its place among the international peacemakers.

We are thankful that there is a ceasefire at last. We hope that the agreement can be the first step in comprehensive and long-term agreements. And we thank you for joining our efforts to bring about a ceasefire.

Marcia Freedman

Diane Balser
Executive Director

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206

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