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."
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
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.
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
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
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."