With Israel's decision to accept a United Nations-brokered cease-fire with the Iranian/Syrian/Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, it has suffered the most ignominious defeat in Israeli history. Israel's aura of invincibility has been shattered; its will has been called into question; its citizens are still under constant threat; its enemies have been elevated in the eyes of their radical compatriots. Syria, emboldened, is talking war. Iran, emboldened, is talking war. And the Lebanese government, emboldened, will refuse to disarm Hezbollah.
What happened? There are many reasons Israel did not finish off Hezbollah. It underestimated Hezbollah's capabilities. It overestimated its own capabilities. But most of all, Israel did what it has done in varying degrees since its inception: It mis-defined its enemy. Israel, afraid of defining its enemy in ideological terms, fell into the trap of defining it in military terms. Israel's enemies, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated in a speech to the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) on July 16, 2006, were those who "challenged [Israel's] sovereignty," those "radical, terrorist and violent elements" interested in "sabotaging the life of the entire region and placing its stability at risk." Even though Israeli Muslims rallied throughout the war in support of Hezbollah, even though Israeli Arab parties openly opposed Israeli self-defense, even though Arab party members have visited with Hezbollah and announced their support for terrorism in the past, the Israeli government refuses to define its enemies in ideological terms.
Israel's decision to define the Israeli-Arab conflict as a "war on terror" rather than a "war on Islamo-fascism" doomed Israel to failure from the start in the Lebanese engagement. What distinguishes Israel from its enemies, according to the Israeli government, is its unwillingness to kill civilians. Terrorists engage in terrorism (a term which has no formal international definition); Israelis invariably engage in targeted strikes designed to minimize civilian casualties.
This is nonsense. What distinguishes Israel from its enemies is the fact that Israel fights for liberal democracy, while its enemies fight for sharia law and the subjugation of all non-Muslims. Yes, Israel's code of morality proscribes superfluous killing -- but defining superfluous killing in war is a difficult task at best. In today's world, civilized nations attempt to draw a bright line between civilians and military. For centuries, however, military forces have been integrated with civilian support structures. The bright-line distinction between civilian and military simply does not exist -- it was obliterated long ago.