Useful reckonings in Mideast conflicts

An intensifying exchange of artillery fire across Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has elevated concerns that the crisis in Gaza is spreading into a regional conflict. Within those two countries, however, two unusually candid volleys in recent days hint at something else. Amid war, Arabs and Israelis may be sowing seeds of stability through new commitments to democracy.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, declared earlier this month that the war in Gaza has opened “a historic opportunity to completely liberate every inch of our Lebanese land.” In a sermon the following day, Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, patriarch of Lebanon’s Christian Maronite sect, responded that “we must … spare Lebanon and the Lebanese, through wisdom and self-restraint, from entering [the] war.” He added, “The decision on war and peace rests exclusively with the government … in line with the Constitution.”

A similar exchange occurred last night in Israel. In a press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “continue the fight with full force” in Gaza until Israel had achieved “total victory over Hamas,” the militant Palestinian group that had governed the enclave and attacked Israel last October. That pledge met a rare open rebuke from former military chief Gadi Eisenkot, an observer to the country’s war Cabinet. “It is necessary,” he said in a TV interview, “to return the Israeli voter to the polls and hold elections in order to renew trust because right now there is no trust.”

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