Tuesday, June 18, 2024 -
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Israel’s Achilles? heel

“We can forgive you for killing our boys. We cannot forgive you for forcing us to kill yours.”
— Golda Meir

Why are there seemingly endless, repeated, Israeli military actions against Palestinians?

Israel is now fighting Hamas-affiliated Palestinians in Gaza. In 2006, Israel fought Palestinians (and other Hezbollah affiliates) in southern Lebanon. From 2000 to 2005 Israel fought Palestinians in the West Bank. That’s this decade alone. We could fill in the long list going back decade by decade to 1948.

Is Israel just a brutal country?

Are Palestinians just a brutal people?

Is this Israel’s war against Islam? Or the Palestinians’ war against the West?

Is all this fighting inevitable? Will we settle the current battles in Gaza, sooner or later, only to find them erupt again, either there or in some other territory contiguous with Israel?

I offer here an answer not often heard, not a political answer, although it is based on a political perspective. My perspective is that Israel has a right to exist, that Hamas and many elements in the Palestinian Authority would deny Israel that right. This perspective alone, however, does not explain the seemingly ceaseless conflict between Israel and her immediate neighbors.

The question really comes down to this: Since Israel has the firepower to end the opposition of her enemies, why doesn’t she? Why, for example, is Israel trying hard, often to the detriment (and death) of her own soldiers, not to kill civilians in Gaza? This effort was also put forth in Israel’s response to the kidnapping of her soldiers by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. In fact, this is standard Israeli military policy.

It does not always work, but the attempt is made. Why? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier for Israel to act like other armies and wipe out her military opponents, regardless of the cost to civilians?

The question is even sharper: If Israel did bring to bear the full force of her firepower and did wipe out her military enemies, wouldn’t that put an end to the ceaseless battles and wars? Wouldn’t that be the better tactic for peace, in the long run?

It will not happen, even if you accept its logic.

It will not happen because Israelis are constitutionally incapable of it. When Golda Meir said that Israel could not forgive the Arabs for making them — Israelis — kill Arab boys, she pointed to a vulnerability that is deep-seated, cultural and, in a certain sense, militarily counterproductive.

Israel cannot simply bomb its way to success, laying waste to vast swaths of territory, wiping out masses of people, even though that would put an end to the weapons of her enemies and to virtually all of her military opponents. Israel does not have it in her to act that way.

That is why Israel took many hits, many civilian deaths, at the hands of suicide bombers and other Palestinian terrorists from 2000 to 2002, during the recent Palestinian “intifada,” before Passover of 2002. Then a suicide bomber killed some 30 Passover celebrants in Netanya in one blast. Israel reacted strongly, combing the West Bank for weapons and terrorists, giving no quarter — exactly as Israel could have two years earlier, in 2000.

To casual onlookers who might not follow events in Israel and the region intensively, on a daily basis, it might seem as if Israel were always engaged in some major military operation. The truth is the opposite. Israel ignores or underresponds to constant sniping and killing, pursuing various peace talks, always against a background of Palestinian provocations, successful and unsuccessful.

Because Israel does not want to kill the Arab boys — until the danger becomes too high, the risk to Israeli security too intense. Then Israel launches a major operation.

Will it be the last? Only if (a) Palestinians have a change of heart and decide to allow a Jewish, or Western, or non-Islamic, or pro-American — call it what you want — state in its region, or if (b) Israel has a change of heart, and uproots the national psyche expressed in Golda Meir’s words.

I prefer (a).

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