Jacob Weisberg just got back from an AIPAC-sponsored trip to Israel, and writes that those who are blaming Bush for the latest crisis are wrong:
A few days before war broke out there last week, I was standing on the so-called Blue Line that divides Israel from Lebanon. Looking across the border from Kibbutz Manara, my colleagues and I—who were visiting on a trip sponsored by the pro-Israel group AIPAC—could see Hezbollah fighters standing atop one of their concrete bunkers. They were separated from Israel only by some unimposing barbed-wire fences and by a United Nations deployment even less daunting than the fencing. As we peered through binoculars, an Israeli military officer described the fragile balance of terror that had kept the border relatively calm since Israel’s withdrawal from Southern Lebanon six years earlier. Hezbollah menaced the Israeli Galilee with its arsenal of 13,000 rockets, but did not fire them for fear of retaliation from Israeli artillery. Israel didn’t attempt to disarm the Hezbollah militia because it didn’t want to provoke a rain of missiles.
We don’t really know why Hezbollah chose the moment it did to end this fragile truce by launching a raid that killed three Israeli soldiers and resulted in the kidnapping of two others. Was it acting out of rivalry or solidarity with Hamas’ preceding attack from Gaza? Did Iran, which is Hezbollah’s chief sponsor, order the attack or merely enable and encourage it? We don’t know whether Syria, which is the chief backer of Hamas, was a planner or merely a conduit for Hezbollah’s Iranian weapons. Nor can we say with much assurance whether the Lebanese government, which includes significant Hezbollah representation, allowed terrorists to rule the south because of weakness or sympathy.
We do know enough, however, to divide responsibility for the current war among these players: Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. This has not stopped many analysts in Europe and the United States from laying blame for the violence squarely at a less obvious doorstep—that of the Bush administration.
Weisberg provides a number of reasons why such blame is misplaced and concludes, “You can blame Bush for a lot of mistakes, and I do, but not for the latest turn in the seemingly eternal and eternally depressing Arab-Israeli conflict.”
While I think Weisberg’s conclusion is correct, my real reason for posting the excerpt is to address the question Howard Kurtz raised in his “Media Notes” column today:
Weisberg shows he’s not a knee-jerk partisan. But wouldn’t it have been better if Slate, and not a pro-Israel lobby, had paid for his trip?
I don’t think so. Weisberg prominently disclosed the fact that “the pro-Israel group AIPAC” paid for his trip (as did NR editor Rich Lowry in this column) so I think it’s okay. Maybe it would have been better if Slate paid for his trip, but without AIPAC sponsorship, he might not have gone at all. Isn’t it better that these journalists — who probably would have written about this conflict anyway — got to actually visit Israel and meet with officials there? I’d be interested to know what you think.