- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008


As Israel’s enemies see the Palestine problem, the Jewish state, with the weakest and most unpopular prime minister in its history and an army that failed in the second Lebanon war, is in political, military and public-relations free fall. Its military neither intimidates nor defeats its enemies. In spite of repeated assassinations, barrages and incursions, the terrorists continue to lob rockets and missiles into Israel at will. The principal reason, in their view and in mine, is Israel’s paralytic fear of negative world opinion and of inflicting enemy civilian casualties. As Fouad Ajami of The Johns Hopkins University has observed, the terrorist “always works with the winks and nods of the society that gives him cover.”

So, if the Jewish state does not conquer its fears and inflict more, not less, collateral damage in the places from which the terror emanates, it will surely die.

Those who wish and work for Israel’s destruction do not shrink from killing innocent civilians. So they are unimpressed by Israel’s failed policy of limiting and apologizing for such casualties, and then begging for forgiveness from a world that masks its politically incorect anti-Semitism with politically correct anti-Zionism.

Israel’s foes would be more impressed if it followed the dictum of its late chief of staff, Lt. Gen. David Elazar. After a commando raid in Beirut in 1973, during which a 70-year-old Italian woman was killed, Lt. Gen. Elazar expressed his regret but added: “Israel won’t play by the rules of partial war; wars are not won with a strong defense.”

Israel’s enemies remember, even if Israel’s leaders do not, that Germany, Italy and Japan surrendered in 1945 only because Allied might overwhelmed them and made them lose their will to fight and to be led by political and military losers. Israel’s enemies remember, even if Israel’s political and military leaders do not, that the Axis Powers were defeated only because the Allied Powers applied slow, sustained and superior force over a number of very bloody years. And Israel’s enemies remember, even if Israel’s political and military leaders do not, that avoiding enemy civilian casualties was never a serious issue for America’s Franklin Roosevelt, Russia’s Joseph Stalin or Britain’s Winston Churchill.

Israel must also stop going berserk whenever one of its soldiers or civilians is captured. This happens in war. It must cease releasing hundreds or thousands of enemy combatants in exchange for one or two of its citizens.

By any calculation, it is proper to sacrifice one soldier in order to save 10, 10 to save hundreds, hundreds to save thousands, and thousands to save millions. Because of the symbiosis between victory and casualties, Israel must also apply this principle to its civilian casualties. In their 1948 war of independence, in order to establish their state, at least one percent of Israel’s population of 650,000 gave their lives. But, now, when Israel’s population is 10 times larger, its leaders erroneously believe that Israelis will not endure a far lower percentage of fatalities in order to preserve their state.

The Israelis must stop fretting about world opinion. The only opinion that matters, and only to the point where it does not threaten Israel’s existence, is that of diaspora Jewry and American opinion. During the 2006 Lebanon war, Americans from President Bush down to the proverbial man and woman in the street hoped and prayed that the Israelis would be much more audacious and victorious than they were. To survive, Israel will have to fight by the rules of its neighborhood. The first rule is “Never let the fear of casualties trump your military judgment.” The second rule is “If you don’t win in this neighborhood, you lose, and you deserve to.”

Edward Bernard Glick, author of “Between Israel and Death,” is a professor emeritus of political science at Temple University.

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