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Home > Politics

What Do We Want? Ceasefire. When Do We Want It? Umm...

31 July 2006

As the wheels at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office grind slowly, ineffectively on, we were as surprised as anyone to learn that the British Government actually *has* a policy regarding Israel bombing seven shades of buggery out of Lebanon, a partner policy to our slightly peeved policy on Hamas and Hezbollah bombing similar shades out of Israel. OK, we only found out by accident when Kim Howells let it slip in a classic Piers Fletcher-Dervish moment when out of earshot of his minders, but his comments caused no end of ructions at upper levels from the sort of people who don't enjoy having to make actual people-on- the-ground decisions. You know, cabinet ministers.

So, while Margaret Beckett was off in her cave enjoying her Sunday beauty sleep, Mr Howells turned to the 'Brian's Mum' school of diplomacy and gave those Israelis a damn good talking to. 'You're being very naughty boys,' he said. Of course, he didn't follow that up with 'Stop it at once. Please', because no one in Tel Aviv was actually listening. If they were, they might have pointed out that this week is the 50th anniversary of Suez, marking half a century since the UK actually had any genuine influence in the region, and bugger off, please.

In fact, for a crisis that has the legs to draw the major players in the region into the kind of war that has 'nuke-em-till-they-glow bitchfest' written all over it, the so-called developed world has been shockingly slow in their efforts to put a stop to the whole affair. One would think, if one were of a somewhat cynical nature, that some quarters might even be encouraging it.

With the leaders of the free world somehow failing to put the words 'ceasefire' and 'immediate' in the same sentence, it is all the encouragement both sides need to keep knocking seven bells out of each other. And paying no heed to what's going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel has found that no matter how technologically superior, you just can't win a war in six days anymore.

There is no doubt, if you're of a utopian bent, that the removal of extremist groups such as Hezbollah from the Middle East equation can only be seen as A Good Thing. This is the sort of simplistic thinking that appears to occupy the minds of those involved in the messy business of dropping large, spiky US-bought explosive devices onto the southern suburbs of Beirut, making for exciting footage on Sky News and convincing those in the messy business of dropping large spiky etc etc that they are doing The Right Thing. And they'd be right, of course. But back in the real world, the idea of Hezbollah and Hamas are impossible to eradicate with mere explosives, and hawkish governments who believe the best form of defence involves large, spiky bombs sitting around Prestwick Airport should, perhaps, think again.

With 14 seats in the Lebanese legislature, and 80 per cent of the vote in the south, that's a lot of people to bump off if you want to erase the idea of Hezbollah. Hamas polled 440,000 votes in the Palestinian Territories, and each bomb that falls in Gaza isn't exactly going to win hearts and minds over to the idea of peaceful co-existence with the state of Israel. And we don't believe for a second that the citizens of Haifa are going to extend an olive branch to their northern neighbours any time soon.

Yes, it makes sense to hand out a damn good thrashing to an organisation whose stated aim is to destroy your country, even better if it involves flipping the bird at Iran and Syria while you're at it. Not so good, however, to level whole neighbourhoods on the premise that anyone who didn't get out of their homes once the bombing started must be a terrorist.

And once again we ask: where is the fucking outrage? There are more tears being shed for the animals in Haifa Zoo than for the human victims on both sides of this war.

The irony is that the whole region, despite the number of column inches and TV hours devoted to it is actually no larger than your average broom cupboard. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight, and much less tolerant of holiday-makers in caravans. Peace is the only option in that mass of humanity, if only because it stops Britain, as a nation, from looking rubbish on the world stage.

So, as Yo Blair leaves for his holidays, this could be Prescott's big chance to rehabilitate himself with the British people, wading in with ministerial croquet mallets if needs be. It is, we are sorry to say, our last, worst hope for a solution.

Doom, then.



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