Hizballah

Like Jon, I thought Jeff Goldberg's Times op-ed about Hamas today was absolutely terrific--hands down the best thing I've read since the Gaza conflict started. My favorite passage:   “Hezbollah is doing very well against Israel, don’t you think?” I asked. His [Nizar Rayyan's, a member of the Hamas ruling class] face darkened, suggesting that he understood the implication of my question. At the time, Hamas, too, was firing rockets into Israel, though irregularly and without much effect. “We support our brothers in the resistance,” he said.

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Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert announced today that he will resign his post after his party elects a new leader in September. We asked TNR contributing editor Yossi Klein Halevi for his take from Jerusalem:    Is it really time for eulogies? Is the abyss known as the "Olmert era" closing? Ehud Olmert has been eulogized so often that, even now, after announcing his intention to resign as Israeli prime minister when the Kadima party holds primaries for a new leader in mid-September, some Israelis don't quite believe it.

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The New York Times has found reason to be optimistic about Middle East, and not just on its predictable editorial page (after all, at that venue all it would take is for the Israelis to be reasonable) but on its news pages. This morning, in fact, on its front page.  Michael Slackman, writing from Beirut, notes the "distinct change of direction" in the tone and even substance of diplomacy. Here is Slackman's litany: "Syria is being welcomed out of isolation by Europe and is holding indirect talks with Israel.  Lebanon has formed a new government.  Israel has cut deals with Hamas (a cease-fire)

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The Next Iraq?

While a recent deal in Lebanon between Hezbollah and the Western-backed government of Fouad Siniora may have averted the outbreak of all-out, Iraq-style sectarian conflict in the tiny Arab state, an article today on the Lebanese news-service Now Lebanon makes it clear how, in many ways, the current political conditions of Lebanon are disconcertingly similar to those of Iraq circa 2006: Its government is fractured and dysfunctional, simmering Sunni-Shia tensions threaten to boil over into widespread violence, and al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups operate freely within the country's lawless zones

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JERUSALEM--At first glance, Ehud Olmert and Bashar al-Assad have nothing in common. The first is a slick, media-savvy politico, while the second is an awkward, anti-charismatic, unloved and unlovable dictator. But Israel's prime minister and Syria's ruler have both concluded that the best way to beat the rap, respectively, on corruption and murder charges is to make peace with one another. That, at least, is the impression of many Israelis, prominent commentators among them, in light of last week's revelation of indirect talks between Syrian and Israeli negotiators in Turkey.

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Hangin' With Hezbollah

Burning tires, roadblocks, masked gunmen, Beirut in flames--sound familiar? This isn't the first time that Hezbollah has laid siege to the Lebanese capitol in order to pressure the government to share more power. Last year, we had Zvika Krieger on the ground in Beirut giving us a thrilling tour of the city as pandemonium reigned. One memorable passage: "We're also trying to stop American hegemony of Lebanon," pipes in fellow Hezbollah member Mohammad.

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Immediately after the massacre of eight students in a yeshiva library in Jerusalem last week, speculation began within the Israeli security establishment and the media about who had dispatched the lone murderer. Was it Hamas? Hezbollah? Perhaps a new, unknown organization claiming to act on behalf of the "liberation" of the Galilee? In fact, the speculation was pointless.

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Realisms

Caramel (Roadside Attractions) Woman on the Beach (New Yorker) The Silence Before Bach (Films 59) HOW SADDENING some films can be, no matter what their subjects are. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Spanish films by Saura and Bardem and others arrived here, their strengths were irresistible, but it was impossible to forget the dark contrast between the films and the country from which they came.

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Well, what did they think would happen when, last year, the Security Council passed Resolution 1701 bringing the Lebanese War to an end?  I can barely count the times I wrote that Syria would simply smuggle to more and more arms to Hezbollah.  And what would the world do?  Nothing.  And that's exactly what has occurred. Oh, yes, the U.N.

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Silenced By Terrorists

Wow, has Human Rights Watch got news for us. Exactly a year after the Lebanon war ended, the organization wanted to release its report about the behavior of Hezbollah in the conflict. And it was going to tell us the militia of this vast mobilization of Shi'a had "been "firing indiscriminately and in some cases deliberately at civilians and civilian structures, in violation of international humanitarian law." This is not exactly a surprise.

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