Monday, August 07, 2006

Natan Sharansky looks at the big picture

There are a few people who can see the forest thru the trees, here's one of them:

Reprinted from

Natan Sharansky: Israel's Very Survival at Stake

Kenneth R. Timmerman,
Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006

JERUSALEM – Former Soviet refusenik and Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky believes that Israel's war against Hezbollah is a "test case" for the free world in the war against terror.

If Israel fails in its war to crush Hezbollah, then Iran will be emboldened, Europe will be threatened, and Israel's very survival in the Middle East will be at stake, he told NewsMax in an exclusive interview in Jerusalem.

"Israel is the center of the larger war which is developing between the free world and terror," Sharansky said, "Today, the most dangerous regimes are getting the most dangerous weapons, and they are challenging the free world through proxies.

"Because the proxies are small, highly-motivated terrorist organizations, it is very difficult to fight against them. They can blackmail all the world because they have access to those states."

Iran was Hezbollah's primary sponsor, Sharansky said, although Syria was also deeply involved as an arms supplier and as a conduit to allow Iranian weapons and military advisors to reach the terrorist group inside Lebanon.

"It is extremely important for the fate of the free world, for the fate of democracy, that we win," Sharansky said.

A Hezbollah victory would demonstrate to the world "that you don't need an army, you don't need territory, and you don't need military bases" in order to defeat the strongest army in the Middle East.

"All you need are groups of highly-trained, highly-motivated terrorists equipped with modern weapons, who can destroy whole countries and civilizations through blackmail and threats and provocations and terror."

He added: "If Israel will not defeat them, the free world will be doomed."

While Hezbollah today was waging war against Israel from fortified positions in south Lebanon and by hiding behind civilians in Tyr and other Lebanese cities, Sharansky warned that tomorrow it could wage a similar war against Europe and America from the suburbs of Paris and Detroit.

"Hezbollah is Iran's first line of attack against the world, not just Israel," he said. "Maybe the world is very lucky that it happened now, not two or three years later. This is the last warning. Imagine Hezbollah with a small nuclear weapon!"

While Hezbollah operatives may not have built underground bunkers and tunnels in the suburbs of Paris or Detroit, "their soldiers are there already, in Europe and in America. The ideology is there. The financial structures are more or less in place. And petrodollars keep coming."

Winning the war against Hezbollah will not be about how many terrorists are killed. Nor will it be about occupying territory, or even about stopping rocket attacks on Israel, he said.

The Israeli government of Ehud Olmert has come under increasing criticism in Israel because of its inability to prevent rocket attacks such as those that hit Haifa and a northern Israeli kibbutz Sunday, killing three civilians and 13 army reservists.

Victory must be political, not just military, Sharansky insisted. "The question is, how can you create a political situation where the free world will have absolute intolerance for these groups? This is very difficult."

Even today, after three weeks of Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israel, the European Union still refuses to put Hezbollah on its list of international terrorist organizations or take action such as freezing its assets, Israeli government officials tell NewsMax.

Israeli diplomats have been trying for years to convince the Europeans to enact the same kind of restrictions on Hezbollah and Hamas as the United States enforces through legislation and the State Department's list of international terrorist organizations.

"So maybe the free world is very lucky such a test case happened at a time they can still do something to de-legitimize Hezbollah," Sharansky said.

Sharansky believes the biggest success of the Bush doctrine, that of spreading freedom across the mostly undemocratic Middle East, has not been Iraq, or even the Palestinian Authority, despite recent elections in both places.

"If there was a success early on of the Bush doctrine, it was the weakening of Syria," he said. "When they had to leave Lebanon, it was not because they were strong. I believe that the Syrian regime would have collapsed if America had continued pressing them and isolating them."

Instead, the United States let up pressure and Syria "continues trouble-making against the U.S. in Iraq, and against Israel," he said.

Sharansky criticized the Bush administration for pushing forward with elections in the Palestinian Authority, without first creating the conditions for democracy.

"You can't first have elections, and then convince those who come to power to have democratic reforms," he said. "It was a big mistake [for the U.S.] to permit terrorist groups to be part of this process."

Sharansky says one of his fears is that the world will use the election of a Hamas government as "the best proof that the Bush doctrine does not work." But he remains committed to the spread of democratic institutions to the Muslim world as the best defense against Muslim fundamentalism and terror.

"I have a special chapter in my book ['The Case for Democracy'] arguing that elections are not the beginning of the process, but the end," Sharansky told NewsMax.

In the Palestinian Authority, for example, Sharansky had urged the Bush administration to press for a three-year transitional period, "so people can start understanding their options, and only then you can have elections," he said.

The biggest achievement of President Bush was that "he brought the democratic agenda," Sharansky said. "But when you're alone, it's very difficult to succeed."

He recalled being asked during a trip to Washington once why Bush had so few allies in Europe.

"I responded, I have a much more difficult question for you: How come he has so few allies in Washington?"

Part of the problem in bringing freedom to Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority, he said was that "major players don't believe in it."

He singled out the CIA and the State Department as opposing the president's pro-freedom agenda. "It's great to have the president and the vice-president and some of their advisors believing in this great ideology. But the people who implement it also have to believe in it," Sharansky said.

Natan Sharansky is a founding member and honorary chairman of

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