What is also clear is that for the first time Israel is facing two Islamist enemies – in southern Lebanon and in Gaza – rather than nationalist guerrillas. The Palestinian Hamas movement’s spokesmen in Lebanon yesterday denied that there was any co-ordination with Hizbollah. This may be literally true but Hizbollah timed its attack when Arab feelings are embittered by the international sanctions placed on the democratically elected Hamas government and then the war in Gaza. Hizbollah will ride the anger over Gaza in the hope of escaping condemnation for its capture and killing of Israelis yesterday.
And there is one more little, sinister question. In past violence of this kind, Syria’s power was controlled by the Hafez Assad, one of the shrewdest Arabs in modern history. But there are those – including Lebanese politicians – who believe that Bashar, the son, lacks his late father’s wisdom and understanding of power. This is a country, remember, whose own Minister of Interior allegedly committed suicide last year and whose soldiers had to leave Lebanon amid suspicion that Syria had set up the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, last year. All this may now seem academic. But Damascus remains, as always, the key.