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'Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." Ironically, it was this verse from Zechariah, read on the Shabbat of Hanukka, that was being chanted in synagogues throughout the world several days ago, precisely as Israel's air force was embarking on a display of might and power that it rarely demonstrates. So, do we believe in the message of our prophets or not?
With our reservists being called up by the thousands and our troops having into Gaza, I recall as well another chant, an echo of the first, and one that was no less sacred to me in my formative years: "Fighting for peace is like f--king for virginity." Both phrases continue to resonate within me, together giving expression to the cherished commandment of the Jewish tradition that we are to seek peace.
How, then, do I reconcile my unabashed support for the current military operation in Gaza with the values that I hold so dear? The answer is a complex one, but in its simplest form I would offer that we really are not fighting for peace; we are fighting to protect ourselves and for our right to some normalcy in our lives. Few, if any, are under the illusion that this military campaign is going to result in peace. Hamas has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel, and no amount of bombs is going to alter that. The problem is, neither is any amount of diplomacy. The Hamas covenant explicitly rejects negotiations as a legitimate form of struggle against the Zionist entity.
Being the stubborn people that we are, however, we have repeatedly refused to accept this reality. Just over six months ago, we and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered "lull" in the use of violence against one another. Our hope was that our avowed enemy would use this period of calm to invest its resources and energies in promoting the social agenda on which it rose to power, and in the meantime reconcile itself - without ever having to say so out loud - to living alongside its hated adversary. Our fear was that Hamas would instead take advantage of the opportunity to act with impunity that it had bargained for to enhance its firepower. Unfortunately, it was our fears that were realized and not our hopes.
DURING THE past half year of relative quiet, a full 538 mortar shells and rockets were launched against Israel, and on December 21, Hamas unilaterally declared an end to the tenuous respite in its holy war against the Jewish state. Until the very last minute, our leaders were scurrying around the region, and calling around the globe, in an anxious effort to grasp at any diplomatic straw that might have prevented the renewal of all-out violence.
Leaders of Arab states were actively supportive of these efforts. So were leaders of the free world, particularly in Europe and the United States.
Nevertheless, Hamas chose to intensify its barrage of missiles rather than talk, its commitment to our destruction apparently even stronger than its will to survive. As the number of rockets exploding in southern towns and settlements surpassed 80 per day last week, and with the wounds inflicted by more than 5,000 such explosions over the past eight years still raw, our military and political leaders, having exhausted all diplomatic options, determined that enough was enough.
CLEARLY THEY were giving expression to the public mood as well. Some 90 percent of the country's citizenry supported the initial strikes against Gaza. But only a few days later, the question has already arisen as to whether or not our response has been disproportionate to the threat we are trying to fend off. A perfectly proportionate response, of course, would have been to fire one missile into Gaza for every missile fired from it. Or, perhaps, proportionality requires calculating the number of missiles per capita raining in on the population of Sderot and its environs, and sending an equivalent number back to terrorize the civilian population of Gaza City. That would give them a taste of their own medicine, wouldn't it?
We are, however, long past the point where dispensing medicine can do any good. Instead, we are interested in radical surgery, in eliminating as much of the cancer of radical Islamic terrorism as possible before it metastasizes throughout the region, and eventually the entire world. If someone, somehow can offer us a noninvasive procedure that will allow us to do that, I am confident with every fiber of my being that we will opt for it, even if the method is considered chancy and unproven.
We have taken risks numerous times in the past and, despite repeated disappointments, we will be prepared to do so again. We really are a peace-loving nation; it is all of our children who have been asked to cross the border, and on the other side of it are real human beings, good people among them who are no less deserving than we of the tranquility Hamas has denied us all. Our tradition, however, demands not only that we seek peace, but also that we choose life. I am deeply sorry about the terrible suffering of the innocent that we are perpetuating within Gaza, but under the circumstances, I offer no apologies.
The writer is a member of the executives of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, where he serves as head of the Department for Zionist Activities.