I can't say I was distraught last week by the navy's capture of the ship loaded with arms that were evidently sent by Iran, headed for Syria and destined to end up with Hizbullah. If Hizbullah lost out on 3,000 rockets and has to make do with only the 40,000 it's got, I'm not going to cry. Nobody got hurt in the raid; all in all, this was not an immoral act that Israel committed.
But it was, I think, a reckless one, the kind that Israel has been carrying out repeatedly in recent years, and even getting away with - so far. We allegedly destroyed an embryonic Syrian nuclear reactor and the Syrians didn't hit back. It is widely assumed that Israel was behind the assassination of Hizbullah military chief Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus - again, no payback. There have been hints published in themedia about all sorts of acts of sabotage we've pulled against Iran, and no retribution has come. Now we've intercepted the Francop arms ship, life remains quiet and everyone around here is applauding.
Call me an old worrywart, but I'm afraid we're learning a very wrong and dangerous lesson from these incidents - that we can attack our enemies with impunity. That we can manufacture, import and export all the arms we want, while forcibly denying our enemies the same freedom - and they won't hit back because they're afraid of our power.
There's a bit of a contradiction here. On the one hand, we've launched these operations against Hizbullah and Syria (and possibly Iran) because we're convinced they're so crazed with hatred for Israel that they'll wage war on us at the first opportunity, no matter how much death and destruction they'll suffer. They're jihadists; they're happy to die for the honor of killing Jews, we believe.
Yet at the same time, we believe that if we hit Hizbullah, Syria or Iran first - if we intercept their arms, if we bomb their reactor, if we sabotage their military operations - they won't do anything because they're afraid of what we'll do to them in return.
In other words, we believe that these jihadists love life - theirs and their countrymen's - too much to risk hitting us back.
It would be suicide, right? They'd have to be crazy, wouldn't they? So rest easy, Mr. and Mrs. Israel, we're going to go on using our big weapons to destroy their little ones, and we're going to keep on getting away with it because, you see, Hizbullah, Syria and Iran value their peace and quiet too much to challenge us.
This is Israel's policy, and it's pure recklessness. We're tempting fate. We're playing Russian roulette.
I WOULD have agreed with the Francop raid if we were in a hot war with Hizbullah, Syria or Iran. I would have agreed if we'd done something like this during the Second Lebanon War, which was started by Hizbullah and in which Israel fought in self-defense (even though I think Israel fought much longer than necessary).
But we're not in a hot war now with Hizbullah, Syria or Iran, we're in a cold war with them. Yes, they send arms to Hamas, but all sorts of countries send arms to Israel and we send arms to about half the warring parties in the world; if every country were to start raiding ships that carried arms to their enemies, the seas would become awfully rough.
Neither Hizbullah, Syria nor Iran are raiding our arms ships, bombing our nuclear reactors, shooting at us or sabotaging our installations - not because they like our country, but because we're too much strong for them to want to pick a fight with us.
Instead, we're picking fights with them.
All the justifications Israel has come up with for the Francop raid are phony. They were violating UN Resolution 1701! (As if we're not in violation of all sorts of UN resolutions, including 1701 with our spy planes flying over Lebanon. And as if we have anything but contempt for UN resolutions.)
Hizbullah isn't a sovereign state, it's a terrorist organization! (As if Hizbullah isn't Lebanon's unofficial army in the south, and as if Israel would have left the ship alone if only Lebanon would outfit Hizbullah with Lebanese army uniforms.)
Those rockets were meant to kill civilians in Israeli cities, just having them is a war crime! (And what are Israel's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons for? Surgical military attacks? And were Israel's conventional weapons never used on civilian targets - say in Lebanon or Gaza?)
We've got this idea that the only reason Hizbullah, Syria and Iran want weapons at all is to destroy us, so this gives us the right to destroy their weapons (while they, of course, have no right to destroy ours, because we only keep weapons for self-defense, and anyone who suggests otherwise just wants to destroy us.)
Actually, I think the main reason Hizbullah, Syria and Iran want weapons is because every country and every nationalist movement in the world wants weapons. Even good nations like Israel and the US want weapons; it's human nature. For our enemies to build armies doesn't necessarily mean they plan to destroy us - all it necessarily means is that they're not pacifists, no more than we are.
BEYOND THIS, I think another reason Hizbullah, Syria and Iran want weapons is to deter their enemies - e.g. Israel - from attacking them. Yes, we had it right the first time - they are afraid of us. And if you look at the results of all our armed confrontations with them - the ones they started, along with the ones we did - they're right to be afraid.
It's true - our enemies would run us out of this country if they could. But they can't and they know it because we've proved it to them over and over and over. That's the reason they're not attacking us - because we've deterred them militarily from doing so.
But we cannot deter Hizbullah, Syria and Iran from simply having weapons, from simply having an army, from simply having the power that comes with sovereignty - especially when Israel has so much more of all this than they'll ever dream of.
It's one thing to tell our enemies that we won't attack them if they don't attack us, and that if they do, we'll attack back. That's an equitable arrangement and we can expect them to live by it because our power is such that it's not worth their while to violate it.
But telling our enemies that we can have unlimited arms while they can't is an inequitable arrangement, and when we enforce it, we humiliate them. We rub their noses in their weakness.
And there are just so many times they're going to take it.
I try not to be a saint, especially when it comes to the unappealing likes of Hizbullah, Syria and Iran. If I thought the Francop raid was the end of this business, I'd say, well, we got away with it, good for us.
But I don't think it's the end. Whatever payback our enemies may be planning, I think the "success" of this latest operation has given Israel's leaders the taste for more. I think we've moved one step closer to launching a "preemptive" war against Hizbullah or, even worse, against Iran.
If we pull a stunt like that, if we grow reckless and arrogant to that degree, 3,000 rockets more or less aren't going to make that much of a difference.
In retrospect, we should have just let that ship go on its way. With our awesome military power, we can live with a cold war indefinitely.
It's the hot wars we should try to steer around.