As Israeli and Hezbollah missiles came raining down on innocent civilian populations, the Bush Administration refused last week to help bring the bloodshed to an end. As he did when he took office in 2001, Mr. Bush publicly washed his hands of any responsibility for brokering a ceasefire, largely because the Administration has refused to deal directly with Iran, Hezbollah, or Syria on issues of regional security. Behind the scenes, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams and Assistant Secretary of State David Welch were dispatched to begin low-level discussions with Israeli and Palestinian officials as the pointless cycle of violence escalated.
The question of who started the violence seemed increasingly irrelevant as the real potential rose for a wider conflict across the Middle East. Sunday a Lebanese missile killed eight people in Israel's third largest city, Haifa, and Israel retaliated by dropping bombs in Beirut and across southern Lebanon that killed at least 40 people. An Iraqi Shiite cleric responded by vowing new attacks on US soldiers in Iraq. The Associated Press quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying, "If the occupying regime of Jerusalem attacks Syria, it will be equivalent to an attack on the whole Islamic world and the (Israeli) regime will face a crushing response." Each Hezbollah missile builds enmity among Israelis toward Iran and Syria, and each Israeli bomb leads to more hatred across the Arab world toward America.
As Fr. Bargil Pixner has pointed out, Christians were the majority population in the Holy Land for most of the last 2000 years. Now the tables have turned, and Christians are a small minority, as in the days following Jesus' Resurrection. How easily we forget that Jesus was a Jew, preaching peace among his people and seeking to persuade his countrymen that no amount of repression was worth taking the life of another human being. The architects of the militarization of our Holy Land-President Assad's Syria, President Ahmadinejad's Iran, and President Bush's America-must engage one another immediately. The people there are too precious to allow us the luxury of sitting by idly while hatred extinguishes their lives with the tools that foreigners have provided.