The word 'ouroboros' is Greek in origin and refers to a snake devouring its own tail. But the word could well have been Hebrew. Or Arabic. Going by the endless cycle of violence in West Asia, where cause and effect have blurred into one bloody narrative, it would seem pointless to lay the blame firmly at the door of Israel or that of Hezbollah/Hamas. The kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by the two militant groups have led to Israel unleashing disproportionate violence as well as visiting collective punishment on Lebanon and Gaza. In return, Hezbollah has also ‘re-reacted’ by shelling Israeli territories and targeting civilians. Despite the seemingly perpetual conflict, what is novel about the latest violence is that the tactics of the two warring parties seem to have been swapped. Kidnappings, till now, were seen as part of an ‘Israeli methodology’, while tactical slackness an Arab one. One thing, however, that remains the same is Israel’s belief that to show its capabilities, it must show it many times over. Thus, the multi-level ‘asymmetrical war’ in the region.
At the G-8 summit in St Petersburg, appeals were made on expected lines. While US President George Bush and his allies stated that Israel has the right to defend itself but needs to “be mindful of the consequences” and therefore show restraint, others were more forthright. A communiqué also made an oblique reference calling for Syria and Iran to stop using Lebanon as a cat’s paw. There was some talk about an international force to be sent to Lebanon to stop attacks on Israel. But with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British PM Tony Blair making the suggestions, the all-important question of who will constitute this ‘international’ force was left eerily unanswered.
Suggestions of restraint usually fall on deaf ears in Tel Aviv because, understandably, they either sound naive or hostile to Israeli ears. But the strongest reason for Israel to show restraint is Israel’s security. In India, there have been hawks galore who have suggested ‘hot pursuit’ after terrorist strikes on our soil. Fortunately, neither this government or the previous one has considered it -- not for abstract, airy-fairy reasons but for practical ones. Israel’s sledgehammer-to-kill-a-fly policy has only resulted in swarms of flies erupting. Clearly, this tactic hasn’t worked. Instead, it has fed its enemies’ appetite. Israel needs to check its rage, if for nothing else, for its own well-being.