Israeli overkill

IT remains to be seen what effect the US-brokered ceasefire to halt Israel's tit-for-tat reprisal attacks against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon will have on Middle East peace negotiations. Although Israel can claim that the Hezbollah provoked its military response, its reaction was cruelly excessive.

The timing of the latest armed confrontation is no coincidence, coming on the eve of US Secretary of State Warren Christopher's visit to the Middle East this week. The Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah has the backing of Syria, but is a renegade guerilla organisation not regarded as a mainstream player in the Middle East. It is therefore up to Syria, which wants peace talks on its terms, to ensure that the Hezbollah attacks against Israel from inside Lebanon do not escalate.

Although Mr Christopher cut short his trip to Asia to travel to the Middle East because of the outbreak of fighting, it would be dangerous to allow the Hezbollah to think that it can sway the policies in the Middle East. Hezbollah should not be allowedto dictate the policy or response of the United States in seeking any peace settlement.

Mr Christopher could do worse than remind all the parties involved about their roles in seeking a solution and that attempts to disrupt that process, even with the use of proxies can only exacerbate the situation.