Amid the never-ending stream of news stories about the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Jewish civilians, and the frantic UN efforts to forge a cease-fire agreement to end the latest violence in the Middle East, CNN’s Late Edition aired a brief interview this past weekend that offered a powerful reminder of just what is at stake in the current conflict.
The program, hosted by Wolf Blitzer, featured the normal Sunday political line-up of guests, including Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, all providing their expert opinion on the present situation in Israel and Lebanon. But two other guests, whose segment was neatly placed near the end of the show, offered in the simplest of terms what was perhaps the most poignant analysis of the day.
When asked by Mr. Blitzer if he would be willing for the government of Israel to release Lebanese prisoners in order to win the return of his son, Shlomo Goldwasser, father of captured Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser, gave a stunning reply: “Prime Minister Olmert promised us that he will do everything to bring back our sons. He went more than this. And he mentioned that he realized (ph) to our sons, like as they were his sons. I think that I can’t criticize or give advice to a prime minister who is talking to me like this.”
Who would have blamed a broken-hearted father for advocating any position that might gain the release of his son? Who would have faulted him for putting his family first? Here was a perfect opportunity for this man to beg his government to simply release a few Lebanese prisoners so that he could just have his child back. What could be more human? Instead, Mr. Goldwasser placed his trust in his Prime Minister, his government, and most certainly his God.
Obviously surprised by the unexpected response, Mr. Blitzer quickly shifted focus to the captured soldier’s wife, Karnit Goldwasser, and posed to her the same question. Amazingly, she answered “You know, as Shlomo said, the most important thing I heard from the prime minister, and he told us a lot of things, but the most important that he’s dealing with is this situation like they were his sons. So what can we ask him more?” Again, anyone watching would have understood if this grieving wife were to beg for the return of her husband, to ask her government to grant Hezbollah’s wishes for a prisoner exchange so her family could be whole again.
But Shlomo and Karnit Goldwasser know that there is so much more at stake in this current conflict than the loss of a son or a husband, although that would certainly be a tragedy. The Goldwasser family realizes what the majority of the world either misses or chooses to ignore: that the conflict with Hezbollah is about Israel’s very existence. It is about the constant Arab struggle to remove the Jewish State from the face of the earth.
As the world clamors for a cease-fire and bemoans the supposed disproportionate Israeli response, it is important not to lose sight of the ultimate Arab goal. Israel is viewed as an illegitimate nation occupying land stolen from its rightful inhabitants. It is this view which leads to the constant flare-ups of violence in Gaza and the West Bank. It is this view which leads to incessant suicide attacks on innocent civilians enjoying a movie in a theater or traveling on a bus to their place of work or residence. It is this view which caused Yasser Arafat to reject a two-state solution that granted Palestinians ninety percent of their demands at the Camp David talks. And it is this view which leads Hezbollah and other Arab militant groups to openly call for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of the Zionists from their holy land.
Neighboring Arab states do not want to co-exist with Israel, but they lack the ability to destroy her. Make no mistake, the will is there. All that is missing is the means to bring about the desired result, and the Iranians are working feverishly to eliminate that obstacle.
President Bush understands what is happening between Hezbollah and Israel. That is why he readily accepts the political heat associated with vacationing during the current crisis, knowing all the while that he is providing Israel with precious diplomatic cover to eliminate a military threat and exercise its right to self defense.
And Shlomo and Karnit Goldwasser understand what is happening as well. They know that Israel is locked in a continuing life-or-death struggle for national survival and that sometimes, no matter how painful it is, you have to sacrifice your family’s well-being for the well-being of your country.