Cliff May

Hamas wants to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. It’s been doing all it can to achieve that objective, for example launching missiles at Israel’s international airport and constructing tunnels to infiltrate terrorists into Israeli communities for the purpose of slaughtering and hostage-taking.

Israelis want to kill as few Palestinian civilians as possible. They’ve been doing all they can to achieve that – no nation under attack has ever done more. For example, they warn noncombatants of impending strikes on military targets by phoning, texting, leafleting and even dropping dummy bombs.

Palestinian civilians are being killed anyway, in large measure because Hamas has placed command posts, missile repositories and tunnel entrances in mosques, schools and hospitals. What’s more, Hamas commanders continue to use Palestinian men, women and children as human shields or, as they prefer, “martyrs.”

Surprise: The U.N., much of the media, many so-called human rights groups and large swaths public opinion, most of it on the left, condemn Israel and condone Hamas.

It’s worth pondering the origins of such perverse attitudes, and I’ll attempt to do so in a moment. But more urgent is to consider what Israelis can do about it. My answer: Very little.

If that pessimistic – or realistic – view is correct, it has policy implications. It suggests Israelis should (1) defend themselves as best they can, while degrading their enemies’ martial capabilities (in particular the missiles and tunnels) as much as possible; (2) continue scrupulously observing the laws of war despite the fact that they their enemies do not, and despite the fact that they will receive no credit for such efforts, because (3) they will know the truth about themselves and that will fortify them against the slanderers; (4) steadfastly reject proposals that would let Hamas achieve “wins” as a result of having initiated this conflict; and (5) try to drive home to Palestinians the fact that Hamas has brought them no benefits in exchange for the sacrifices it has demanded and the suffering it has inflicted.

One more recommendation: Once the current Battle of Gaza is over, Israeli officials would be well-advised to reiterate to Palestinians that if they would adopt a policy of non-belligerence (“peace” is a bridge too far) vis-à-vis Israel they would enjoy increased security, prosperity and self-rule, a foundation upon which further progress might be built.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.