After past Israeli attacks into Lebanon, Washington reactions usually were models of diplomatic vagueness, calling on all sides to show restraint and deploring the region’s cycle of violence.
Not this time.
Since the Israelis began military strikes against Hezbollah last week, the White House has been solidly behind them, placing blame for the crisis solely on rocket attacks into northern Israel by the Lebanon-based guerrillas. Civilian casualties caused by Israeli strikes have brought no direct American criticism.
“It’s a different situation,” said a senior official, who declined to be quoted by name.
Administration officials deny charges from Israel’s critics that the United States is trying to shore up the Labor government of Shimon Peres in advance of elections.
The American aim now is to persuade Syria and Lebanon to make a U.S.-brokered 1993 unwritten understanding with Israel more explicit and prevent future attacks against Israeli civilians, the official said. Until that happens, he continued, Israel has “a long list of targets” it can attack.