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(photo credit: AP [file])
The world must be wondering, 17 days into Operation Cast Lead, why it is taking so long for Jerusalem to cave into pressure for a cease-fire in Gaza. From the UN Security Council, that renowned bastion of international probity, and the constellation of Muslim, Arab and non-aligned states to our unwavering European allies, the international community - and much of the media - wants Israel to stop fighting.
We Israelis can hear these erstwhile friends in Europe and the media saying: "Everybody is wrong, and you alone are right?"
They continue: "Yes, Israel has a right to self-defense - but must your IDF kill innocent civilians and destroy buildings in the process? Can't your tanks avoid harming them? Your failure to fight a war that is televised live, 24/7, without spilling blood has enraged the Arab street. We don't want this fury turned against our interests in the Middle East."
That's why London's Telegraph could withdraw its "support."
"There comes a point beyond which an operation of this sort becomesâ€¦ morally unjustifiable," it said. "The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is so severe that a cease-fire is essential, irrespective of whether Israel feels it has achieved its military objectives."
By this logic, Britain should have thrown in the towel in its war against Germany by September 18, 1939 - 17 days into WWII. Instead, Winston Churchill fought on for five long years at an awful - but morally justifiable - cost in Allied and enemy civilian lives.
The New York Times, likewise, sympathizes with Israel's predicament but worries that trying to wrest Gaza from Hamas's grip will complicate the efforts of the incoming Obama administration to broker peace.
Yet the reality is precisely the opposite: Unless Hamas is defanged, the prospect that relative moderates among the Palestinians, led by Mahmoud Abbas, will be emboldened to strike a deal with Israel is - nil.
The reaction of Israel's European allies in particular has been instructive. Having abandoned Israel as it defends itself against a transparently fanatical Hamas - and after Israel unilaterally uprooted its settlements and pulled its soldiers out of Gaza in 2005 - Israel will be mindful of how much their support is worth when the time comes to "take risks for peace" in the West Bank.
SPEAKING AT the Sunday cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made Israelis feel proud when he summed up the justice of the struggle and denounced the world's callous reaction: "For three weeks nowâ€¦ Israel has been making an impressive military effort in the Gaza Strip in order to change the security situation in the south of the country. For many years we've shown restraint. We reined in our reactions. We gritted our teeth and absorbed barrage after barrage.
"No country in the world - not even those who preach morality at us - would have shown similar patience and self-control. At the end of the day, the... obligation to defend our citizens - after we issued many warnings - led us to the unavoidable decision [that we had] to defend our [people], whose lives had become intolerable.
"We knew in advance that this struggle would be neither easy nor simple. We did not delude ourselves that what seemed natural, clear and self-evident for any other country would be similarly accepted when the State of Israel is involved. But this did not, and does not hinder our determination to defend our citizens.
"We have never agreed that anyone should decide in our place if we are allowed to strike at those who bomb our kindergartens and schools; nor will ever agree to it...
"Israel is nearing its goal [of changing] the security situation in the south so that our citizens can experience security and stability in the long term. We must not, at the last minute, squander what has been achieved in this unprecedented national effort that has restored a spirit of unity to our nation.
"The Israeli public, especially the residents of the south, have the patience and willingness needed. So does the Israeli government."
Amen to that.
Israel would have preferred to act with the support of those who claim to back our right to self-defense. In a cynical world, Israel must press ahead without it.
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