|The Responsibility of an Israeli Government and its Army
by Rabbi Eliezer Waldman
July 23, 2006
I must begin by expressing my feelings that our hearts are with our soldiers on both the northern and southern fronts, and our prayers beseech the Almighty to protect them so that they all return home safely. Also, we implore the G-d of Israel to grant wisdom to our leaders so they have the courage to make correct decisions that will achieve the goal of destroying our enemies, so they don't dare attack the Jewish people again. In times of war, the Jewish people's secret weapon is the power of unity. Thank G-d that this power is the active driving force in Israel today.
Upon realizing what has happened to us these past few weeks, we must not stop ourselves from recognizing and analyzing the weaknesses and mistakes that have brought us to such alarming circumstances. Since the Yom Kippur War, I cannot remember a situation where our enemies succeeded in humiliating us by invading our sovereign territory, killing soldiers and kidnapping others - all this, despite the fact that intelligence sources specifically warned of such intentions.
The best way to express my feelings as an introduction to the harsh words and thoughts which are burning within me is by quoting Rabbi Kook, who wrote: "I am lifting my voice loudly not because I have the strength to speak, but because I don't have the strength to keep silent."
I have the feeling that, for years, the leadership has been weakening the army. The IDF is highly technological and ultra-modern in its weaponry, but it depresses the morale of its troops and suppresses their motivation. It began with Oslo - creating the illusion of peace and turning our worst enemy, whose goal is to destroy us, into a so-called partner for peace. All this being done while blinding our people, and especially our soldiers, to the reality of the evil intentions of these "peace partners". When an army created to protect the land and people of Israel is instilled with distorted codes of morality, which suddenly dictate that foes are friends, the result is confusion - creating the illusion of peaceful borders and literally not being able to recognize the enemy. The tragic events on the Gaza border and the endless barrage of deadly rockets on the north are direct results of that confusion and illusions of peace.
There can be no greater distortion of Jewish values and confusion planted into the hearts of our brothers and sisters in the Israeli army than when "disengagement" - meaning the uprooting of Jewish communities and synagogues - becomes major Zionist policy. This situation has created a mentality that weakens motivation and alertness, so essential in preventing disastrous mistakes like those which preceded the Hamas and Hizbullah infiltration, kidnapping and murder of soldiers.
All the recent humiliating failures in the functioning of the army stem from uncertainty in policymaking by Israeli leaders in recent years. There are three concepts that have expressed a basic misunderstanding of the responsibility of a government surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction.
The first illusion is that by disengaging from our enemy and from our land, which our enemy claims, we will lessen the friction and achieve peace. No one heeded our warnings that by fleeing from our enemies, yielding parts of our homeland and uprooting Jewish life, our enemies would be stimulated to attack us even more. To the contrary, Zionism always believed that the best way to strengthen our position is by strengthening our settlements and communities in Eretz Yisrael.
The second illusion is that by building a fence we will insure security and the enemy will be unable to attack us. Rockets can be fired over the fence and tunnels can be dug under the fence, as the intention of the enemy is to destroy us.
The third illusion is that they will remain there and we will remain here, and never the twain shall meet. We have heard our leaders expressing this "logical" philosophy to justify "disengagement" and building fences. How silly not to understand that the enemy on the other side will continue to seek the annihilation of the State of Israel by sending rockets from there to here, as we are experiencing right now.
I do hope that any Israeli leader who has the courage to face reality will be able to recognize the tragic blunder of "disengagement", which has brought the enemy's rockets to Sderot and Ashkelon. Can our leaders still dream and plan another irresponsible crime called "convergence", which will, G-d forbid, bring the Arab rockets from disengaged areas of Judea and Samaria to our coastal plain, Tel Aviv, Petach Tikva, Netanya and Ben-Gurion Airport? All this, in addition to the planned uprooting of 80,000 Jewish men, women and children, synagogues, schools and yeshivas. The very thought of another "disengagement" is beyond any human logic and Jewish morals.
I pray and hope that our leaders have learned their lesson, a very painful lesson, suffered by families bereaved by the loss of their loved ones along this irrational path. How tragic that it took the blind hatred of the Iranian president, implemented by his prodigy Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, rockets exploding in the Galilee and Haifa, to awaken the national instinct and pride of the Jewish leadership in Israel.
I hope that I am not overly optimistic by expecting our government and armed forces to have the determination and resolve to achieve our goal of subduing the enemy and obliterating their stockpile of weapons of destruction. We cannot allow ourselves to be enticed, and disillusioned, to curtail this mission by yielding to a ceasefire and negotiations, which will eventually allow our enemies to re-arm and rebuild their forces of destruction, as we have naively done in the past. We certainly will not want another round of rockets to attack us in the near future.
We are now in the period called the Three Weeks of mourning for the destroyed Temples, which in Hebrew is called bain hamaytzarim, meaning "between the straits." I have a feeling that we are on the verge of getting out of the narrow straits we have created by deluding ourselves with distorted concepts like "disengagement" and "convergence". If my feelings are indeed correct, then we must open our eyes to the Divine guidance arousing the Jewish People and its leadership to a revival of Zionist faith, which will bring security and renewed pioneering activity in the Land of Israel. In place of "disengagement", an intense movement of re-engagement - re-engagement with the Land of Israel, re-engagement with the Jewish People, re-engagement with the G-d of Israel, re-engagement with the destiny of Zionism. Instead of uprooting thousands of Jews from their land, we must deepen the roots of Jewish faith and Zionist fervor in the soil of our holy land of Israel.
Hopefully, this will bring us to the ultimate ideal of Lamentations, which we read on Tisha B'Av: "Bring us back to you, O Lord, and we shall return. Renew our days as of old."
--------We Are Waging a Milchemet Mitzvah
by Rabbi Dov Begon
July 27, 2006
We are at the height of a milchemet mitzvah, a compulsory war, as Rambam taught: "What is a milchemet mitzvah? It is a war to assist Israel against an enemy that has attacked them." (Hilchot Melachim 5:1)
During such a war, the people's morale must be strengthened. A kohen is therefore appointed to address the people during the war. He is called the Mashuach Milchamah [the anointed for war]:
He stands on a high place with all the armed forced before him, and he says to them in Hebrew: "Hear O Israel! Today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them. The L-rd your G-d is the One who is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will deliver you." (Rambam, ibid., quoting from Deuteronomy 20:3-4)
Rambam also says there:
When a person enters the thick of battle, he should place his hope in G-d, who saves Israel in time of trouble. He should be aware that he is waging war for the sake of G-d's Oneness. He should muster his courage and have no fear.... Whoever starts to think too much in battle, alarming himself, violates a Torah prohibition: "Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them." Moreover, the lives of all Israel depend on him. If he does not do all he can, with all his heart and soul, to be victorious in battle, it is as though he has shed blood, as it says, "Let him go home rather than have his cowardliness demoralize his brethren...." (Deuteronomy 20:8) Whoever fights with all his heart, without fear, and his intent is solely to sanctify G-d's name, can rest assured that he will not be harmed and no evil will befall him. He will build a strong family in Israel, bringing merit to himself and to his descendants for all time, and he will merit the World-to-Come. (Rambam, ibid., 15)
Today, we are in the period between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av, when we recall the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Together with that, we must look toward the future. We must learn, understand and gain awareness that we are at the beginning of the building of the Third Temple, which began with the ingathering of the exiles, the establishment of a sovereign Jewish entity, the State of Israel.
All the prophets and sages who relate to the rebirth of the Jewish People in their land after the two-thousand-year-long exile note that the Third Temple will be built amidst wars. As our sages said, "In the seventh year there will be wars. At the end of that period, the son of David will come."
The nations of the world have not resigned themselves to the idea that our people is rising to rebirth. They are striving their utmost to extinguish the flame of Israel, which is burning brighter and brighter.
Thus, our wars are milchemot mitzvah - compulsory wars. The ideas aired in recent years by political leaders according to which we are fighting to achieve peace have no foothold in the cruel reality that we face. They are mistaken, and they are based on the unfortunate fantasies of dangerous diplomatic programs such as Oslo, the Separation, the Disengagement and the Convergence Program. To our enemies, all these programs send a message of surrender and weakness. Such programs, which confuse the heads of the army and demoralize the troops, are the result of an error in understanding reality.
At present, we must pray, and call to the nation and to its leaders: Open your eyes! Know the enemy and his goals. Fight back hard. Smite the enemy and deter him. By such means, G-d's name will be sanctified on Earth.
We must be strong and courageous on behalf of our people and on behalf of the cities of our G-d.
MIM: Compare this to Ehud Olmert's cynical sentimentality when he tells Gaza deportees ala Clinton that 'he feels their pain - while assuring them he intends to destroy more communities. These two takes on the present situation epitomise the deep rift between the religious and secular mindset in Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicated Monday that the fighting in the north and south has not dampened his enthusiasm for realignment, telling Gaza evacuees in Nitzan that other settlements will be evacuated.
"Your difficulties are clear to me and we will solve the problems," Olmert told representatives of the evacuees living in temporary housing in Nitzan. "We will yet evacuate communities and it is important to me to complete this chapter as soon as possible so that we will be able to continue as a strong and united nation for the challenges that await us." Olmert said Israel was "fighting for its right to live." Olmert also told the Nitzan residents that he was "convinced that we made the right decision to carry out the disengagement plan, and it is better for Israel that you are not living in the Gaza Strip at this time." "I know that you are angry," he said. "I know that you think that you need to be in Gush Katif. We think differently. The government will invest so that each evacuee feels that the State cares about him and so that your children love the country like your grandfathers did. It is important to me that you know that we are acting out of the same love for Israel that you have." Olmert went to Nitzan as part of a visit that took him to the Hatzor Air Force base and Ashkelon.
|Olmert to Katif: At Least You're Not Dead |
13:03 Jul 27, '06 / 2 Av 5766
by Hillel Fendel
||Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with former Gush Katif residents and said that in light of the war, they have nothing to complain about. He also promised to "evacuate" more Jewish towns. |
|Olmert visited Nitzan, home to the largest concentration of people who used to live in Gush Katif, Gaza. In his Monday visit to the site of pre-fab homes called caravillas - some of its residents call it a "refugee camp" - Olmert met with representatives of several former Gush Katif communities. "I just came from speaking with the parents of the pilot who was killed in the Israel Air Force helicopter crash a few days ago. Their son we sent not [on a mission of ] settlement, and neither did he come back with compensation; he came back in a coffin!"
Though a videotape of the proceedings shows that no one immediately responded, furious reactions came later. One said, "As if we didn't have enough people killed when we lived in Gush Katif?"
Lior Kalfa, Chairman of the Gush Katif Residents Committee, said, "This cruel comparison is the latest spin to emerge from the Prime Minister's advisors. They are willing to do everything to divert public attention from the government's failures [regarding the resettlement of the nearly 9,000 Gush Katif expellees], in light of next week's anniversary of the expulsion. Let the public know that a full year has passed, and the government has still not solved the ticking time-bomb problem of the unemployment-stricken refugee camps."
Kalfa said that "though we are all still hanging in the air, with no knowledge of where our permanent homes will be - instead of receiving answers from the Prime Minister, we receive cruel comparisons and manipulations. We have not despaired and we want to continue to build, but it is hard for us to understand the government's policy of derision."
Katif.net's Moti Sender notes that several months ago, "State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote sharp criticism of the Disengagement, blaming the State and its institutions... He made it clear that every delay in implementing solutions is an expression of a continuing failure. Despite this, a half-year has passed since then, and nothing substantial has changed."
Promises More Destruction
PM Olmert also surprised his listeners by promising to "evacuate more communities." He explained that "this merely strengthens the need to complete this chapter [of relocating the Gush Katif residents] properly."
To this, the Residents Committee responded, "If the current chapter is ending so frightfully, who could really be so cruel to want to continue to the next chapter?"
IDF may be morally justified in obliterating areas with terrorists
The man who wrote the IDF code of ethics, Professor Asa Kasher, has indicated that in the current circumstances in southern Lebanon, provided the appropriate precautions are taken, it may be "morally justified" to obliterate areas with high concentrations of terrorists, even if civilian casualties result.
"I don't know what the truth is about the circumstances," Kasher stressed. "But assuming that we warned the civilians and gave them enough time to leave, and that the civilians who remained chose, themselves, not to leave, then there is no reason to jeopardize the lives of the troops," he told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Kasher's statements followed the deaths of nine soldiers on Wednesday, eight of whom were ambushed at Bint Jbail. Israel has been reluctant to use sufficient weaponry to flatten the Hizbullah "terrorist capital" of Bint Jbail, a policy that many have criticized as being overly sensitive toward the enemy and its civilians.
Moshe Keynan, the father of a soldier killed in another conflict, said he was angry with the IDF for jeopardizing soldiers' safety to protect civilians.
"We need to worry that our kids return to their parents and we need to worry about our family and sons and wives, not how we look on BBC," said Keynan.
Meir Indor, director-general of the Terror Victims Association, seconded Keynan's concerns.
"There is an argument which is dealing with the subject of how much danger soldiers can be exposed to in order to save civilians. I think the world already decided that you don't sacrifice your soldiers in order to save enemy civilians," said Indor, whose organization is lobbying the military and the government against putting soldiers in unnecessarily dangerous situations.
The IDF denied the claim that its measures to prevent civilian casualties puts its soldiers at unnecessary risk.
"We are taking precautions to protect civilians but we will not do so at the expense of our own soldiers' and civilians' lives," said a military source.
Joining the debate, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter was quoted by The New York Times on Thursday as saying that Israel was unwilling to bomb villages without warning and invade with massive amounts of ground troops because "you'll kill a lot more innocent people and suffer a lot more casualties."
Kasher admitted that the decision to bomb a house or town was quite complicated, especially if there are citizens who wanted to leave but were prohibited from doing so by Hizbullah.
"We should take into consideration that people want to leave and aren't allowed to leave, and that changes the situation, but not on a grand scale," he said. "There you can justify certain infantry attacks... but only if it doesn't dramatically increase the jeopardy of our troops. Something which is a slightly higher level of risk is acceptable, but something drastically higher is not acceptable."
Kasher told the Post that the IDF acts according to two sets of moral considerations. The first is the IDF's code of ethics, The Spirit of the IDF, which was written by Kasher and a committee of generals in the early 1990's. The guidelines enumerate such values as sanctity of human life, human dignity, and purity of arms. Additionally, the IDF takes international law into consideration, although Kasher noted that international law is directed more toward two countries fighting each other rather than a country fighting a guerrilla or terrorist group.
"There is an ingredient of international law that is well developed concerning classical wars to draw a distinction between combatants and civilians... However, in cases of acting against terror or guerrillas it is simply inapplicable, because the people on the other side are not combatants of a military organization. The whole idea of drawing a distinction evaporates," said Kasher.