WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The most recent battles in the global war on terror -- on the northern and southern borders of Israel -- have provoked politicians and pundits to make some very strange comments:
"As a sovereign nation, Israel has every right to defend itself from terrorist activities." -- President George W. Bush.
"I fully support Israel's right to defend itself." -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
"Israel must defend itself, and it had the right to do so." -- French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
On their face, each of these statements appear supportive of Israeli military action in the aftermath of terrorist attacks across Israel's borders by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. Unfortunately, these expressions of "approval" miss the point -- and invite a debate that is irrelevant. Every sovereign state, by any definition, has the "inherent right of self defense." Even raising the issue concedes that there may be a question about Israel's "right to exist" -- the principal argument made by the Jewish nation's opponents ever since it came into being in May 16, 1948.
Worse, nearly all of these preambles are followed by judgments about the nature of the Israeli response to attacks across internationally recognized borders perpetrated by groups nearly universally accepted at terrorist organizations:
Bush concluded his "self defense" comments with the rather strange admonition: "Our message to Israel is to defend itself but to be careful about the consequences."
Paris, apparently chagrined that Israel would have the temerity to hold a war that competes with coverage of the Tour de France, was of two minds about the conflict. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin insisted on an "immediate cease-fire," while Sarkozy urged, "as friends of Israel, we must advise it to maintain level-headedness and restraint."
The "cease-fire" theme was quickly adopted by Kofi Annan at the United Nations and within the European Union. Javier Solana, the globe-trotting, promise-them-anything EU foreign-policy representative, rushed to Jerusalem to have his photo taken urging that the Israelis "stop combat operations immediately to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Lebanon."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.