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Israel Must Defend Itself Despite World Criticism


David Horovitz is editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, and he joins us now by phone.

Thanks for taking time to talk to us.

Mr. DAVID HOROVITZ (Editor-in-Chief, Jerusalem Post): Sure.

KAST: Israel's goal now is to destroy Hezbollah. Why then is Israel attacking the infrastructure of Lebanon?

Mr. HOROVITZ: First of all, I think you're right. I think Israel's declared goal is to disable, dismantle Hezbollah. And I think that what began as a border incident, a cross-border violation by Hezbollah, has now escalated in terms of Israel's sense of what is required. Because I think it's become plain to Israel how much strength Hezbollah has amassed and how much of a threat it is.

In terms of hitting targets beyond direct Hezbollah targets - first of all, Hezbollah is very, very hard to target. If, as the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. alleges, Lebanese families have missile launchers in their living rooms and missiles in their homes, then plainly it's very hard to dismantle Hezbollah with sort of the pinpoint targeting that Israel would want to take.

But I also think there's the sense that the initial attack and the ongoing violence is sovereign violence, if you like. Hezbollah sits in the Lebanese government. Hezbollah has a minister in the Lebanon government. The Lebanese army has chosen not to deploy to prevent Hezbollah. And in fact, according to Israel, have actually helped Hezbollah in the some of the incidents that have been taking place. And therefore, Israel feels, I think, that its sovereignty was violated and it is at war with a sovereign state, provoked into war by a sovereign state.

KAST: Reaction around the world to Israel's escalation of the fighting is mostly negative, many calls for a cease-fire. How long can Israel ignore world opinion?

HOROWITZ: Well, first of all, I think most Israelis - and you're obviously speaking to me as an Israeli journalist - most Israelis think that the world has got this wrong, and dangerously wrong for its own well-being. I remember Israel pulled back to the international border in southern Lebanon six years ago. In other words, it has no territorial claims inside Lebanon. It did so to line that was guaranteed by the United Nations. And that line was then violated by an organization that has basically committed to the destruction of Israel.

When Israel, which now has about a quarter of its citizens in bomb shelters, and is being told by this enemy force that they can reach much further down into Israel - I hope people are aware of how small the distances are here - basically a third of the country is under attack and half of it may well be soon. If Israel is trying to defend itself, and trying to disable that threat, to most Israelis it seems quite bewildering that the international community would not support them in that. It did not provoke this conflict. It came under attack. It crossed an international border that was supposed to be guaranteed by the U.N.

KAST: President Bush clearly supports Israel's right to defend itself. But he also calls for restraint. What role does the U.S. have here beyond calling for restraint?

HOROWITZ: Well, what I think Israel would hope that the U.S. will do is help it explain to, I don't know, an intellectually dishonest or thick-headed international community what is at stake here, a respect for sovereignty, the unacceptability of having a terrorist organization take over a sovereign government or hold a sovereign government to ransom. And I'm not just talking about Israel being basically held hostage here. I'm talking about Lebanon being held hostage to the interests of an Islamic extremist organization which is trying to wipeout their neighbor to the south.

So I think the Israeli hope is that - sometimes Israel is quite inarticulate in staking its case internationally. I think that it would hope that America would help try and convey some of those realities. And I think, actually, some of the international response has been more understanding than I suspected it would have been a few years ago. I think the fact that Israel is back at the international border in Lebanon and is nonetheless being attacked - it's back at the international border in Gaza, by the way, on a second front and nonetheless being attacked - much of the world that is prepared to honest must surely recognize that Israel is not seeking territorial assets in those parts. It is merely seeking to defend itself and protect itself.

KAST: At the G8 Summit this morning, President Bush repeatedly referred to Syria and Iran, and their support of Hezbollah, as the root causes of the conflict. Do you see either of those countries being drawn into this fighting?

HOROWITZ: Do I think that the conflict could escalate? I think anything is possible. I think that it could fizzle out in two or three days. Under international pressure, I think it could escalate. The sense that I get from the Israeli leadership is that they have been struck and surprised themselves by the extent of Hezbollah's weapons capacity. And I think the Israelis are horrified, frankly, at how much strength Hezbollah has built up. And therefore, there will be a great deal of reluctance in Israel to have this conflict end without Hezbollah significantly strategically disabled and no longer able to constitute a military threat to Israel.

KAST: David Horowitz is the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post.

Thanks very much for speaking with us.

HOROWITZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.