Israel sees ceasefire hesitancy as a green light for its Lebanon bombing
The Israeli government has interpreted the outcome of yesterdayís Rome summit on the Middle East crisis as backing for its military campaign in Lebanon ñ claiming that only a military defeat of Hezbollah will suffice to stem terrorism.
The claim came after representatives of the USA, four European nations and five Arab countries failed to agree on a formula to produce an immediate ceasefire or on the ability to call for such an action.
Indications are that Israel, which has denied deliberately targeting a United Nations observation post in spite of ten warnings, may now press ahead with a larger invasion of Lebanon, justified on security grounds.
Hezbollah, which has a foothold in the country and receives some backing from Syria, is also refusing to stop its rocket attacks and is mounting a ferocious response to Israel in the south of the country ñ which is being torn apart by the conflict.
Just as Israel claims to be rooting out terror and defending its country, so Hezbollah says that it is defending the territorial integrity of a sovereign state against an aggressor defying international law on illegally occupied territories.
There are fears that the crisis could escalate yet further across the region, and existing diplomatic routes are struggling to cope with mutually reinforcing intransigence on the part of the warring parties.
Many political and religious leaders have criticised the actions of both parties, and have called on Israel to behave according to international standards. But the Israeli authorities are interpreting anything less than a full and immediate ceasefire call ñ which they would quickly denounce as biased and unworkable ñ as endorsement for their current policy.
The situation appears to be in stalemate, observers and commentators say.
The South African Council of Churches have meanwhile suggested an alternative procedure for negotiating about the conflict ñ a meeting in Pretoria using techniques established in the countryís own post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation process.
In another new development, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) has added to growing calls for an immediate ceasefire and for the release of all hostages.
ìThe call for a ceasefire has up to now gone unheeded by those who have the power to effect it," said CEC general secretary Archdeacon Colin Williams.
CEC brings together Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican leaders across Europe and works in partnership with the association of Catholic bishopsí conferences (CCEE).
In Beirut, two Christian youth and student groups have also warned the violence could well have negative repercussions for the minority historic Christian communities in the region, who remain caught in the ideological and religious crossfire.
[Also on Ekklesia: Mennonites call on USA and Canada to pursue non-violent alternatives 27/07/06; Christian groups urge Blair to back ceasefire calls 26/07/06; South African churches propose bold Middle East conflict transformation process 26/07/06; Why violence cannot solve Lebanon or Gaza Strip showdowns 24/07/06; Christian Aid emergency appeal swings into action 24/07/06; Mennonites issue action alert on Middle East crisis 24/07/06; Middle East churches document and condemn Lebanon horror 23/07/06; US churches appeal to Bush as Israel seizes Lebanese village 23/07/06; Aid agencies say Blair must call for immediate Middle East ceasefire 22/07/06; WCC urges churches to support Middle East appeals 21/07/06; Churches redouble efforts and prayers for an end to Middle East hostilities 21/07/06; Williams laments Lebanon vicious spiral of violence 20/07/06; Gaza, Israel and Lebanon crises are imperilling Middle East security 19/07/06; Historic Galilee sites hit by rocket attacks 18/07/06; Pope condemns Lebanon raids as G8 converges and Blair blames Iran and Syria 17/07/06; Christians call for end to Lebanon violence as Israel vows revenge 16/07/06; Middle East Christians in anguish over Lebanon violence 14/07/06; Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace'; Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas; Ex-spy wages peace on terror in the Middle East]