The horror inflicted on Israel by suicide bombers is the stuff of nightmares – and it’s not difficult to sympathize with the impulse that leads that country to launch a raid on Syria. But was the acquiescent US response the right one? The Economist may not have all the right answers, but it’s asking some difficult questions.
It would be foolish to deny that there are links (and, presumably, close ones) between Palestinian terror groups and their wider Islamic terrorism. In fighting terror, the interests of Israel and the US often overlap – but, the Bush administration needs to recognize, not always so. The Syrian regime may be deeply unattractive (to put it mildly) and chances of any accord between it and Israel remain slim, but it’s possible to see how, given the right incentives (carrot as well as stick) that Damascus could be persuaded to put some distance between itself and the type of Islamic terrorists (apparently now going through that country on the way to Iraq) with whom it has strong ideological differences and who are, incidentally, much more of a direct threat to the US than their counterparts on the West Bank, in Gaza or southern Lebanon.
Seen from the perspective of Jerusalem, Israel’s action in Syria may be logically defensible, but (and I hope I’m wrong about this) from the point of view of US interests it may well have been counterproductive. Publicly humiliated by the raid (including, critically, in front of his own people), Assad may now find it even more difficult to come to some sort of accommodation with this country, an accommodation that could be very useful indeed in our war against terror.
It may be time for a tough conversation between Messrs Bush and Sharon.