Defeating the barbarians at our gate

The campaign against Hizbullah has created a greater sense of unity than any since the Six Day War.

kids in shelter 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
kids in shelter 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
This war could have been avoided had we not continued to bury our heads in the sand as we watched the Katyusha missile infrastructures being built by Hizbullah on our northern border. For over a year, Kassam rockets rained over us and although we threatened reprisals ad nauseam, all we did was bomb empty fields and abandoned buildings. History will surely now condemn the unilateral Gaza disengagement and the precipitous withdrawal from Lebanon as unmitigated disasters, both from the military standpoint as well as from the vantage of psychological warfare. All we did was succeed admirably in convincing the jihadists that we lacked deterrent capabilities and were at the point of unraveling in terms of national morale. But this is not a time to indulge in recriminations. Today we must set aside our differences and unite behind our leaders, making them aware that if greater sacrifices are required in order to defeat the barbarians at our gate, they have our full support. PRIME MINISTER Ehud Olmert is a civilian without military experience. And "peacenik" Minister of Defense Amir hardly radiates the charisma of a warrior. But David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol, and Menachem Begin also lacked military backgrounds but emerged as outstanding national leaders in war as in peace. Besides, most Israelis of all political persuasions would agree that since the outbreak of hostilities, both Olmert and Peretz have performed in an exemplary manner and emerged as true national leaders. The prime minister's recent Knesset speech to the nation was Churchillian, and will go down in history as one of the most stirring calls to the nation from any Israeli leader. Clearly the present campaign to root out Hizbullah has created a greater sense of Israeli unity than at any time since the Six Day War. Aside from a handful of fringe extremists and eccentric Ha'aretz op-ed writers, there is a genuine consensus that this is truly a classic case of a just war. Our adversaries no longer even bother to go through the pretence that the conflict is related to land for peace. Hizbullah and Hamas, backed by the Iranians and Syrians, seek the elimination of Jewish sovereignty - nothing less. WE ARE NOT attacking Lebanon. We are attacking Hizbullah, which has stuck itself like a leech on the Lebanese people. They are terrorists armed with lethal hi-tech weapons who believe they are sanctified to ravage our sovereign territory in order to kill and kidnap civilians and soldiers. No other country could remain passive in the face of such provocations, combined with the daily launching of missiles on civilian population centers. By any terms these are acts of war. As Olmert put it in the Knesset, "No more!" And whereas decent nations at war may seek to minimize casualties of innocent non-combatants, to relate to "proportionality" in this context can only be described as playing foul. Playing foul are those repeating the perennial mantras of "cycles of violence" and spouting generalizations based on moral equivalency which fail to distinguish between aggressors and victims. Playing foul was Kofi Annan scolding us, and the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for "disproportionate use of military force" - a resolution which was only averted by the US veto. Playing foul were the Russians, the French and other Europeans demanding a halt to the "inflicting of suffering on innocent Lebanese civilians." Playing foul was the EU President deploring the destruction of civilian infrastructure and condemning Israel's "unjustified air and sea blockade," even hinting at economic sanctions. TO HIS CREDIT, President Bush stood by Israel from the outset, adamantly reiterating our right to defend ourselves and refusing to support a cease-fire which would have enabled Hizbullah to retreat and regroup in order to confront us again at a time of its choosing. We should not be under any illusion that the hostile attitude displayed against us by much of the world will change overnight. But now, for the first time, even countries that until now displayed bias and applied double standards in judging us are following the American lead. Perhaps recent events may finally be making some of the Europeans aware of the stark reality that they and we Israelis are on the same side, on the front lines facing the authentic cut-throat jihadists, the advance guards of Islamic fundamentalism seeking to conquer the world and transform it into a caliphate. The first major breakthrough came with the statement of the G8. For the first time Russia and France endorsed a resolution which clearly distinguished between the aggressor and victim. Hopefully it may represent the turning point of a growing realization that the only real beneficiaries from this violent upheaval are the Iranians, who are orchestrating the conflict to promote their own objectives. THE PEOPLE of Israel are already displaying qualities of fortitude and determination that their enemies mistakenly believed had been eroded by soft living and consumerism. Now is the time for us to reinforce our unity and national consensus. So long as the government remains firm on its objectives - the dismantling of Hizbullah and the return of the hostages - we are entitled to expect our politicians to set aside their differences. Now is the time to demonstrate our united resolve, with leading opposition politicians, including Binyamin Netanyahu speaking to the world, with one voice in support of the efforts of our prime minister. Now is the time to promote the most talented and articulate Israelis to present our case to the world, even if that requires some of the currently ensconced bureaucrats to temporarily step aside. Now is also the time to repair our relationship with Diaspora Jewry and welcome their input into the war of ideas in which we have been losing ground over these past years by being falsely portrayed as brutal occupiers. This could represent the beginning of a campaign to reverse the global tide of media demonization and bias confronting us. HISTORY MAY make us grateful that the Hizbullah offensive took place now rather than in a few years' time, when the price in blood would undoubtedly be much higher. Our challenge is to guarantee that the bloodshed and the sacrifices our people are currently making will not be in vain and will result in a more secure Israel. That means finishing the job, as Prime Minister Olmert has promised to do The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader.