Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Buffet and Hezbollah

Thomas Friedman, one of my role models in journalism whose writings I always read avidly, writes in NY Times today that the most talked-about story in Israel before Hezbollah started the war was the fact that in the largest ever buy-out of an Israeli company, American investor Warren Buffett had paid $4 billion for an 80 percent stake in Iscar Metalworking Cos., an industry leader in metal-cutting tools owned by the Wertheimer family. Friedman then says:

That's where Israel's head was on the eve of this war--and it explains something I sensed when I visited Israel shortly after the war started.

Nobody wanted this war and nobody was prepared for it. Look closely at pictures of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon. There is no enthusiams in their faces, and certainly no triumphalism. Their expressions tell the whole story:" I just don't want to be doing this-another war with the Arabs."

"Israel was not prepared for this war," said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi." It came upon us like the crash of a meteorite...The whole focus of debate in the country before this war was on withdrawal."

What's so troubling for Israelis is that this war is about nothing and everything. That is , Israel got out of Lebanon, and yet Hezbollah keeps coming . It is all about Hezbollah's need to justify its existence and Iran's need for distraction.

What's doubly sad is that Lebanon was getting its act together , Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, represented a whole new type of Arab leader--one who rose to power by being a builder and entrepreneur. He understood that Lebanon, freed of Syria, was a country whose youth had the energy and skill to compete anywhere... But Mr Hariri was murdered, allegedly by Syria, and now Lebanon's democracy is being murdered by Hezbollah. Once again, in the Arab world, the past buries the future.

Israel mustn't get sucked into that same grave. Israel needs to get a cease-fire and an international force into south Lebanon--and get out. Israel can't defeat Hezbollah, it can only hurt it enough to make it think twice about ever doing this again--and it has pretty much done that. It must not destroy any more of Lebanon, which is going to still be its neighbor when the guns fall silent.

Israel wins when Warren Buffett's company there is fully back in business--not when Nasrallah is out of business. Because that will only happen, not by war, but when Arabs wake up and realize that he is another fraud, just another Nasser, whose strategy would condemn the flower of Arab youth--who deserve and need so much better--to another decade of making potato chips , not microchips. Nasrallah can win in the long run only if he can condemn the flower of Israel's youth to the same fate. Don't let it happen, Israel.

I totally agree with Tom Friedman. In fact, what 's so frustrating about Israel's handling of this war is that it's playing right into the hands of Hassan Nasrallah and his sponsors in Syria and Iran, by unnecessarily dragging the war on to a far longer and bloodier dimension, thus letting Hassan Nasrallah off the hook.

But if Israel agrees to a cease-fire, makes sure about the deploymant of the intenational force and withdraws from Lebanon without wasting any more time, the dust will settle and the Lebanese people will get to see Nasrallah for the "fraud" and the "puppet" that he is.

Hassan Nasrallah must pay for inviting death and destruction upon Lebanon as a favor to his terrorist masters in Tehran and he will, only if Israel listens to people like Friedman-Kash