As Winston Churchill famously encountered in the 1930’s, there is an inherent reluctance of peace and freedom loving peoples to respond pro-actively to aggression. There are issues of disbelief, often predicated upon the inability of the peace lover to understand the mind set and intentions of the aggressor.
This leads to rationalizations of how the other side might feel and could be dealt with. From this point, it is just a hop, skip and a jump to wishful thinking about how to deal, or not deal, with an aggressor.
Finally, there is the reluctance that is born out of not wanting to disrupt one’s serenity, individually and collectively, in order to take the necessary and potentially costly steps to deal with aggression. Costly steps of course focus on risking the lives of soldiers, but also include risks to civilians, their lives, businesses, assets and lifestyle.
If all of this sounds uncomfortably familiar, that might be because it pretty well describes the state of affairs in Israel, now and in the past, when confronted with Palestinian Arab aggression.
We live with a functional absurdity. We have invested men, materiel, treasure and brainpower in creating the most advanced – in training, technique and equipment – armed forces in the Middle East, and one of the strongest in the entire world.
Yet, for reasons cited above, as well as the ever present fear of international opprobrium, we hamstring ourselves constantly.
This hamstringing takes at least two major forms: the unwillingness to react, not in equal measure, and not to mention more intensively, in the hope that the aggression can be managed; and second, allowing ourselves to be dictated to by legal advisers and arbiters who are not focused on deterrence, let alone victory, but rather, the sensibilities of our enemies, and most certainly the judgments of the international community.
The “just keep a lid on things” strategy defines much of what passes for geo-political policy vis-à-vis Judea and the Shomron, the Temple Mount, and all things related to Palestinian Arab and Israeli Bedouins. The thought is that, left to their own natural devices, conflicts will subside, as the aggressor will understand that its not in his interest to continue down this destructive, but also self-destructive path.
But this is solipsism, meaning that we look at other people as if they were extensions of ourselves. It is both unrealistic, and completely untrue. When Hamas leaders announced that they had found the crucial weakness to the Israelis in our love of life (which they unfavorably contrasted to their embrace of death), they were speaking from the heart.
Nevertheless, we deem it advisable to just let things play out a bit longer, because after all they will just peter out and go away.
Maybe that’s ultimately true, but think about the damage that can and will be done before the realization of letting things go takes hold.
This intrinsic reactiveness means that our enemies are always the ones setting the agenda, determining the timetable and controlling the pace and intensity of action. It is Hamas who has just issued multiple “ultimatums” and rest assured that they view them as such.
Why isn’t the response to an ultimatum the bombing of the seaside villas of the Hamas leadership? Does anyone doubt that this will get their immediate attention?
Which brings us to our cowering to legal advisers who are itching to find reasons why Israel cannot employ its might in the name of deterrence. While we have no statistical proof of this, anecdotally it seems that these advisers are possibly embarrassed by Israel’s military dominance, that we have an unseemly advantage and should therefore be willing to let the other side level the playing field a bit.
There is also very likely a rampant fear of what their European and American counterparts might think, and a desire to stay in their good graces. After all, no one wants to be indicted by the International Criminal Court and thereby forego shopping trips to Harrods or Galeries Lafayette.
If all of this sounds farfetched, it is only because of the absurdity of the actual state of affairs, which in effect invites bizarre rationales to explain an even more bizarre reality.
One of the bracing lessons of the Trump presidency was to see how diplomatic neophytes such as Jared Kushner, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, bright amateurs not steeped in the arcana of the State Department, could produce more successes and achievements than the striped pants set were ever able to accomplish.
Might it not be equally exciting and very likely as productive to have bright, aware, and victory focused non-professionals directing our responses to aggression? Let’s revisit the widespread but targeted bombing of the villas of Hamas leaders. Hit ‘em where it hurts is classic schoolyard wisdom, but in the case of Hamas, who licks its chops at the prospect of dead children, it might very well carry the day.
Of course, there would be the inevitable international recriminations, to which the victory-focused amateurs would reply, “you’re right, and we’re about to do it again.”
Israel needs to learn one difficult but crucial lesson: no one respects our humanity, our decency and our exquisite care for the rights of our enemies. We are still castigated, vilified and convicted.
It is time to prioritize our own safety and welfare over those of our enemies. While we might not win international accolades, we will win something far more important: enduring peace and quiet.