eliezer Shkedy, air forc.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At the cabinet meeting yesterday, following the missile attack that killed eight people in Haifa, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "This is a difficult morning for us all... This is the criminal war of Hizbullah against the nation and its residents. We have no intention of bending to these threats. They will fail. There is no time limit... Every nation in the world would respond like us."
Olmert and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz have both been clear that, while Israel has made substantial progress toward destroying Hizbullah and forcing Lebanon to take responsibility for its own territory, more time is necessary.
That time should be taken, regardless of the hypocritical lectures that are already pouring in from other countries, including from surprising quarters.
While the G8 in a statement yesterday correctly and commendably identified the current escalation as resulting "from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region," even US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has been staunchly defending Israel and the need to "disable extremists," has also said, "There is a great concern on all sides about civilian casualties, there is a great concern about damage to civilian infrastructure."
Israel does not deserve such finger-wagging. Israel does not target civilians. Rather, it deserves praise for the extraordinary measures it takes to avoid civilian casualties. Would our critics, among whom Rice is the most mild, rather we bomb populated areas in Beirut - as Hizbullah-Iran is bombarding Israeli cities - than infrastructure targets?
Rice is absolutely right to strongly oppose imposing a cease-fire that would only set the stage for further conflict. And it is heartening that most Western nations are finally acknowledging that Israel has a right to self-defense.
The countries that are pressuring the US to pressure Israel, however, must choose. They cannot inwardly cheer as Israel pounds Hizbullah and support Israel's right to self-defense while, at the same time, claiming that most everything we do is "disproportionate." A right of self-defense can only exist in the real world. It is a not a theoretical construct that can be divorced from the difficulties of fighting terrorists who deliberately place their missiles in homes and their bunkers in cities. Nor can it ignore the phenomenon of a failed state that has turned over its borders to a vicious terrorist organization that acts as a proxy arm for foreign powers.
If a "right of self-defense" is defined so narrowly that it is impossible to implement, then it does not exist.
The Lebanese people are paying a terrible price for their government's support for Hizbullah. No one wishes this were so. Even now, however, Lebanese diplomats continue to defend Hizbullah's right to "resist" against "occupation" - as if Israel were sitting on a single centimeter of Lebanese land before Hizbullah's attack.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora now implies that his government will take Hizbullah's place in southern Lebanon. This declaration would obviously not have been made without the "disproportionate" air, sea, and land blockade Israel has imposed in response to Lebanon's act of war.
The problem, of course, is that Lebanon cannot be trusted to lift a finger against Hizbullah, which has ministers in its government, once Israel's military pressure has been lifted. Accordingly, there is near-unanimity in Israel, including among our citizens who are bearing the brunt of the missile attacks, that Israel must itself take whatever time is necessary to destroy Hizbullah and obtain concrete international guarantees for Lebanon's promises.
Israel should continue to state clearly that it will not end its operations nor be satisfied with anything less than permanently removing Hizbullah's threat to Israel.
As of Saturday night, this newspaper reported, senior diplomats believed Israel had a "72-hour window" to complete its military operations before the international community started demanding a cease-fire. These unnamed Israeli diplomats should not be speculating about a "window" that only exists if we decide to acquiesce to it, which we should not.
These same diplomats also seemed pleased that other nations were only calling for "restraint" rather than using harsher language. They should not be so easily satisfied.
Israel should be openly rejecting the right of other nations to lecture us about sensitivity toward civilian casualties when no other nation, under these circumstances, would take such extreme measures to avoid such casualties, and while Israelis are being killed, wounded, and confined to bomb shelters by missiles aimed deliberately to murder a maximum number of citizens.