Tuesday, July 18, 2006
What else can we do? מה לעשות? شو بدنا نسوي؟
Miri Regev, the photogenic IDF spokesperson said that the air force is taking all possible measures to avoid civilian casualties. I would love to feel at ease, but it is still very hard for me to hear that more than 200 Lebanese civilians have been killed over the past 6 days, according to the reports so far. Most Israelis are aware of these figures. They are cited in all the broadcasts and newspapers. But to be honest, there has been very little debate about these deaths in the media here, and I do not hear too many people talking about them on the street. As Regev pointed out, the current IDF operation has an astounding approval rate of 83% among the Israeli public. I have to say, that despite my sadness about the deaths of Lebanese civilians, I, too, support this operation.
How is this possible? Some of our "friends" will see this approval as further evidence that Israelis are bloodthirsty criminals, no different from the terrorists whom they are attacking. Such equations are quite common in the Lebanese blogosphere, even among those who oppose Hizbullah. But what is really responsible for the high civilian casualty rates?
So many civilians are dying because this war is being conducted against an enemy who launches missiles from the safety of non-combatant population centers at Israeli cities, towns, and villages with the explicit goal of harming civilians. As much as the equivocators will try to deny this, the IDF does not aim to kill non-combatants. Even if you want to believe that the Israeli army is morally indifferent, you have to concede that civilian deaths cause tremendous harm to the reputation of the country and its ability to operate in the international arena. It is against the IDF's own strategic interests to harm civilians.
This war is once again exploding the myth of the "smart bomb." Without amazing intelligence, it is inevitable that civilians will be killed even when the targets are armed militants, terrorist supply lines, and missile launch sites. To some extent, the air force, at least before the last month, had become extremely successful in carrying out strikes against Palestinian militants on the way to attacks. while avoiding civilian casualties. But let's not kid ourselves, unless Israel exposes its soldiers to extremely high risks, civilians will die in the fight against this kind of an enemy. Israel, like any other state, sees its primary responsibility in protecting the lives of its own citizens - combatants and non-combatants. In this, it is no different from the US or the countries who participated in the NATO intervention in Kosovo.
Let me add also that this is not a war that Israel is fighting in order to hold on to some conquered territory. Nasrallah, backed by Iran, is now waging this war to terrify Israeli civilians in the present and to be able to threaten them at any point in the future. Hizbullah is not fighting for any specific objective that Israel can compromise on.
This is why I think that a cease fire at this point would be a serious mistake, which would allow Iran and Syria to rearm Hizbullah and return us to the status ante. While I am not opposed to an international force a bit further down the line, provided that it has teeth, I find it hard to reconcile myself to the idea of a cease fire that does not include the return of the kidnapped soldiers, and the destruction of Hizbullah's ability to launch as much as a firecracker across the internationally recognized border into Israel.
I pray that future bombs spare the innocent.