Arecent editorial in Haaretz reprimanded the IDF for cutting down a tree inside Israeli territory near the Lebanese border on the absurd grounds that the authorities should have been more restrained and sensitive to the political tension in Lebanon.
If this approach were adopted by our government, it would result in a total collapse of Israel’s deterrence. Rather than discouraging our enemies from conducting acts of aggression and terror out of fear of reprisal, we ourselves would become reluctant to take any defensive measures out of concern that they could be construed as aggressive acts or provocations by our hostile neighbors. In such a bizarre climate, we would be failing to carry out the minimal steps required to maintain the security of our borders and the welfare of our citizens.
A FEW days before the unprovoked attack by the Lebanese army, a grad
rocket had been launched from the Gaza Strip which could easily have led
to major loss of life in the heart of Ashkelon. Subsequently, missiles
were launched on Eilat, again fortunately not resulting in Israeli
casualties but killing an innocent Jordanian.
These terrorist attacks took place shortly after we agreed, under
enormous pressure from the Obama administration, to participate in a UN
investigation of May 31’s flotilla incident when Turkish Islamic
extremists sought to break our legitimate naval blockade of Gaza.
Ironically, that took place simultaneously with widespread media
coverage of classified documents released by WikiLeaks about the
inadvertent killing of civilians by US and allied forces in Afghanistan.
Needless to say, there were no calls from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-
Moon for an inquiry or any suggestion that the death of these innocent
civilians were war crimes.
On the other hand, when the Lebanese army deliberately killed an Israeli
officer after the IDF had obtained advance UNIFIL approval to clear
trees in what was indisputably acknowledged to be within the Israeli
border, the UN’s meek response was limited to a call for restraint.
Our indefatigable ally, the US, has been arming the Lebanese army at an
alarming level, despite its awareness that Hizbullah and Syria are the
dominant forces in Lebanon, and despite the fact that these weapons
would almost certainly be turned on us in the event of a conflict
orchestrated by the Iranians.
Yet even under these circumstances, the initial US State Department
response to the border killing paralleled the mealymouthed UN call for
restraint, and failed to condemn the perpetrator. It was only after
Israel protested bitterly that the US finally criticized Lebanon.
OVERALL, IT would seem that we have still not internalized the lessons
of the past. We live in a region of scorpions, in which compromise and
goodwill extended in the face of aggression has time and again
encouraged our enemies to intensify their acts of terror until a
full-scale war erupts.
We should surely have absorbed the lessons of the Kassams. Those who
belittled their impact and derisively referred to them as primitive
“Kassam Shmassams,” failed to appreciate that our failure to respond
vigorously allowed the world to view such attacks as part of the Middle
Had we responded initially with vigor, the attacks would not have escalated and we may well have avoided the Gaza war.
One need only remember Ehud Barak’s undertaking when we withdrew from
Lebanon. “If they so much as cross the border, we will smite them with
all our might.”
Ariel Sharon said the same after the Gaza withdrawal. And after the
Second Lebanon War, Ehud Olmert also made empty threats but failed to
respond to Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza until the south was literally
being inundated .
When Binyamin Netanyahu was elected, he pledged to respond promptly and
vigorously to all terror attacks. Indeed until recently, we had relative
quiet. Now under Iranian direction, Hizbullah and Hamas are once again
testing us in order to gauge how far they can go.
They are confident that the Americans will exert maximum pressure on
Netanyahu to display restraint so as to avoid provoking a war which
would divert attention from Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions and destroy
prospects for direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
But the reality is that we find ourselves between a rock and a hard
place. If we are again persuaded to act with restraint in the face of
aggression, we will merely empower the terrorists. If we seek to retain
our deterrence, our response to such acts of hostility must be immediate
and forceful and not wait until Israeli blood has been shed.
If we respond swiftly and demonstrate that Hamas and Hizbullah will pay a
major price if they attack us, we will almost certainly incur the wrath
of the UN, Europe and regrettably, probably also the US. Yet the
lessons of the past decade demonstrate that Hamas and Hizbullah are
afraid of being held responsible by the people they rule for any
suffering inflicted on them as a result of unprovoked aggression against
Israel. This is a brutal area in which alas, paradoxically, might and
swift reprisal against terror attacks are far more likely to avert a
full-blown war than vacuous dialogue and restraint.
Our deterrent policy should be spelled out.
Netanyahu must avoid repeating the hollow threats of reprisals that
transformed us into loudmouthed bluffers and a regional laughing stock
over the past decade. He must proclaim that we will respond vigorously
to any threats against our civilian population and, unlike his
predecessors, commit himself to implementing such a policy.
We no longer have any illusions. The world does not accept our right to
defend ourselves, but we cannot afford to await intervention or
retribution from third parties when our civilians are endangered. It
will represent a continuation of former government follies if we stand
by with folded arms and fail to immediately respond to acts of terror.
On the other hand, if we convey a strong message to our foes that if
they deliberately spill Israeli blood there is a major price to pay, we
may in fact avert the worst scenario of another brutal all-out email@example.com