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It seems that Israel can do no right in its foreign affairs these days (or ever, for that matter). Since its liberation from Britain, Israel has had “issues” with all its neighbor. In the past few months, relation with its neighbors have been exceptionally testy. Tuesday, there was a major border clash between Israel and their northern neighbor, Lebanon. The facts are extraordinarily fuzzy . . .

What is clear: the Israelis were attacked, taking fire from mortars and RPGs. The Lebanese claim that what appeared to be an attempt to uproot a tree was taking place on their side of the border (the Israelis called it “fence maintenance”). They suspect that uprooting the tree was in reality the Israelis planting cameras.

And so they opened fire. There was no “warning shot”. This is not disputed, but that’s not why the Israelis are angry. The Israelis are angry that they didn’t already know they, the Lebanese, were there. They felt hoodwinked. And threatened. One Israeli editorial says that the fact that Israeli scouting was fooled is a threat to national security.

After the opening shots, things escalated. The Israelis, who had a tank and artillery with them (was the tank for uprooting trees?), fired back. Israeli commanders called in air support. Artillery fell and, the Lebanese allege, killed civilians, which gives the Lebanese grounds to write headlines bearing the standard of “Israelis kill Lebanese civilians”. Some reports include sniper fire from the Lebanese side of the border, which gives the Israelis cause to suspect a premeditated ambush.

The casualties given are three Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a handful of Lebanese civilians. On the Israeli side, a Lt Colonel was killed on site, and a Captain was mortally wounded.

In the fallout, both sides have seemingly accused the other of breaking every treaty and UN resolution in living memory. The Israelis say they were on their own side, and the Lebanese say the Israelis were on their own side. The Lebanese Supreme Defense Council Secretary General says they will respond to any Israeli agression with “all the means at our disposal.” With a title like that, you’d better believe him. Syria has pledged to support Lebanon in any endeavor against the evil Zionist intruders.

Oh, and by the way, a US Defense Dept spokesman says, “exercise maximum restraint.” Like that’s gonna happen.

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