The tragically renewed military exchange between Israel and the Palestinians in Lebanon is a front-page goad to resolving what tends to be a back-page crisis -- the fracturing of a nationa and its potential for engulfing a region. It is one of those problems so stubborn and complicated that all those involved need the prayers of humanity to provide an atmosphere for finding the specific solutions that have eluded discovery so far.
Somewhere on the horizon should be the withdrawal of efforts to manipulate the situation in Lebanon by outsiders such as Israel and Syria, not to mention other Arab states including the intransigent Libya. Last month there seemed a glimmer in the right direction when the "Israeli connection" was reported to have been severed with a Christian militia group said to have benefited for three years from weapons and training clandestinely supplied by Israel. But realistically no one expects any imminent regional disposition to let Lebanon handle its own problems.
At a minimum, however, there should be no blatant violation of Lebanon's borders, such as this week's Israeli raid on the ground and in the air, reportedly the biggest in two years. Descrived by the Israelis as a preemptive strike against Palestinian guerrilla bases, it was followed by the first rockets directed at Israelis said the Palestinian rockets were soviet-made. The United States was reported to be investigatin whether the Israelis had used American-made weapons, which are not supposed to be employed offensively.
Officials of the United Nations as well as the United States and other individual countries made what have become ritual condemnations of the Israeli action. But their weight with Israel may be calcualted by the fact that, at almost the same time, Israel was formally submitting to the US a request for military and economic aid of $3 billion for 1981-- with an Israelik finance official noting he had assurances the US would not use aid to bring political pressure on Israel.
However, Israel was not making it easy for its friends to come to its aid, what with the raid following various other defiant actions such as the Knesset vote to formalize awll of Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. There is some Washington speculation that the Lebanon attack was not only to convery a tough image of Prime Minister Begin for domestic political consumption but to stand up in the face of all the recent international criticism.
But the continuing plight of Lebanon as a whole should not be lost sight of in the midst of the headline-making Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lebanon's national government is one virtually in name only. The country has in effect been partitioned by Syrian, Christian, Israeli, Palestinian factions. The UN peace- keeping forces are undercut.
The healing of this nation must not be sacrificed to the interests of others -- or to the insidious presumption that nothing can be done.