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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Israel Has a War to Win by Dr.Daniel Pipes

Israel Has a War to Win by Dr.Daniel Pipes

Why the Israelis Must Fight - The story of an Israeli family
July 23, 2006


Israel Has a War to Win

by Daniel Pipes
Los Angeles Times
July 20, 2006


A leading Israeli philosopher some years back referred to his countrymen as "an exhausted people, confused and without direction." Before he became prime minister, Ehud Olmert publicly declared these extraordinary words: "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies." In that demoralized spirit, the state of Israel retreated twice in five years under fire, from Lebanon and from Gaza and now, as a consequence, is fighting wars in precisely those places.

Individual members of congress have noticed this problem; I suggest that the executive branch take Olmert at his word and buck up this fatigued but exceptionally close ally. Even if Israel can very capably defend itself (as recent events have confirmed), it lacks the will to make the protracted efforts to defeat its enemies. And Israel's enemies Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran are also America's enemies.

Building on this assessment, I suggest that the administration make the following requests of Jerusalem, to protect American interests.* Specifically:

  • Do not engage in exchanges with terrorist groups, such as the 2004 trade of one rogue Israeli civilian and the remains of three soldiers for 429 living terrorists and criminals. This returns terrorists to the field while encouraging further abductions.
  • Do not allow Hezbollah to acquire thousands of Katyusha rockets from Iran and station them in southern Lebanon. The estimated current arsenal of nearly 12,000 Katyushas not only threatens all of northern Israel, as recent days have proved, it provides Iran with a strategic threat with implications for the entire region.
  • Do not permit arms to reach the terrorist Fatah organization, as recently happened, according to the Jerusalem Post, when an estimated 3,000 American rifles and a million rounds of ammunition were delivered to it out of a misguided ambition to help one Palestinian faction beat out another.
  • Do not turn the West Bank over to Hamas terrorists. This endangers U.S. interests in several ways, notably because it would threaten Hashemite rule in Jordan.

Israel has a significant role in the U.S.-led war on terror; it can best defend itself and help its U.S. ally not by aspiring to agreements with intractable foes but by convincing them that Israel is permanent and unbeatable. This goal requires not episodic violence but sustained and systematic efforts to change regional mentalities. Therefore, U.S. policymakers might suggest to Olmert that he view the current fighting not as a momentary exception to diplomacy but as part of a long-term conflict.

With the emergence of an aggressive and perhaps soon-to-be nuclear-armed Iran, the strategic map of the Middle East is in the throes of fundamental change. This overarching threat should provide the backdrop for every Israeli decision going forward whether to retake territory in Gaza, what to target in Lebanon and whether to launch military actions against Syria.

Paradoxically, developments of the past week bring good news: Many Middle Easterners, not just Israelis, fear Iranian ambitions. Worries about Iran prompted the Saudi kingdom to take the lead in condemning attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel as "rash adventures." As the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh has documented, Israel's counterattacks have prompted "an anti-Hezbollah coalition." Sound Israeli policies will greatly influence the evolution of this nascent force.

As Arabs worry more about Iranian Islamists than Israeli Zionists, a moment of opportunity presents itself. Close coordination between Washington and Jerusalem is needed, including timely reminders to Israelis that they have a war to win.

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, will be the William E. Simon distinguished visiting professor at Pepperdine University in 2007.

---------------------------------------------- MIM: The story of the Kehlman family, third generation Israelis, whose 18 year old daughter Tal was kiled in a suicide bombing in Haifa shows why Israel has no choice but to win this war -and that no compromise with terrorists and the countries which support them is possible. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5204714.stm More scary than the Gulf War'
By Raffi Berg
BBC News, Haifa

Like most Haifans who have decided to stay in this missile-battered Israeli city, 48-year-old Ron Kehrmann has spent most of the past two weeks at home.

Ron Kehrmann with the shrine to his daughter Tal Ron Kehrmann lost his daughter Tal in a suicide bombing

Shops and businesses have closed, and after eight people were killed in a single missile strike last Sunday, Mr Kehrmann's only employee packed up and left.

"It's very, very difficult," he said, sitting in the living room of the apartment he shares with his wife, Yafit, and 14-year-old son, Dror, in the southern district of Savyone Hacarmel.

"You can hear the missiles fall. You can hear them get closer and closer - you count the number of missiles and just hope it won't be your turn to get hit."

If you had asked me two weeks ago where is my shelter, I would have smiled and said: 'Why need a shelter?' It shows how fragile the situation is and how rapidly things can change
Ron Kehrmann

The barrage has evoked some uncomfortable memories for Mr Kehrmann, a third-generation printer, whose grandparents fled Germany for Palestine in 1934 amid a rising tide of anti-Semitism.

"I will never forget how, during the 1967 Six Day War, my grandmother took me from school and ran with me into a bomb shelter - I was eight years old and that was my first experience of war," he recalled.

In the years since, Mr Kehrmann has needed to resort to bomb shelters twice more - first during the 1991 Gulf War, and now, once again, during the bombardment of northern Israel by Hezbollah.

"If you had asked me two weeks ago where is my shelter, I would have smiled and said: 'Why need a shelter?' It shows how fragile the situation is and how rapidly things can change," he said.

Tight squeeze

In fact, the Kehrmanns have sought sanctuary in their shelter - a reinforced room off one of the apartment's three bedrooms - some two dozen times since the attacks began.

"One moment you can be having a peaceful conversation, then suddenly the siren sounds and everyone dashes into the shelter," said Mr Kehrmann.

Yafit points to the shelter's air vents Air vents have to be covered in case of a chemical attack

"In 1991, we had a five-minute warning, but now the sirens only give us 30 seconds to get into the room and shut the door."

Just 12m square, it is a tight squeeze for an average family - this one even more so, serving a dual purpose as a spare room for most of the time, with a desk, bookshelves and large, fitted wardrobe.

All 37 apartments in the nine-storey building contain identical reinforced rooms, each one built directly above the other, and - in theory - able to withstand massive impact.

The door - the only entrance and exit - is hefty and the concrete walls are 10 inches (25cm) thick.

The room is windowless, there is no air conditioning and occupants' combined body heat quickly sends the temperature inside rising.

There are two porthole-style air vents, but these have to be covered and bolted shut if there is a threat of a chemical attack, such as during the Gulf War when Scud missiles fell on Haifa.

"Now it's more intense than the Gulf War. People here are more scared now than they were then," said Mr Kehrmann. "It's more threatening this time because Saddam Hussein only had a few dozen missiles but Hezbollah have got 13,000 of them."


Back then, the Kehrmanns took refuge in the shelter as a family of four.

Kehrmanns in gas masks The Kehrmanns had to don gas masks during the 1991 Gulf War

But three years ago Mr Kehrmann's daughter, Tal, then 18 years old, was one of 17 people killed when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on board a bus in Haifa.

"She was killed by ball-bearings packed into the bomber's belt," said Ron, "the same type of ball-bearings which are now packed into the heads of the missiles."

Back in the living room, a memorial candle burns in front of a picture of Tal, the centrepiece of a small shrine dedicated to Mr Kehrmann's beloved daughter.

"Before Tal died, I used to say everything will be okay, but everything's not okay," he said.

"It makes you realise you should never take anything for granted. To lose your home, like people have in Haifa and in Lebanon, is terrible, but life, that is irreplaceable."

Haifa hospital is in firing line


The growing number of Israeli casualties - both military and civilian - is stretching Haifa's emergency services to their limit as the conflict with Hezbollah continues to rage across the Israel-Lebanon border.

Professor Best Professor Lael-Anson Best fears a rocket will hit the hospital

Nowhere is this felt more acutely than at the city's Rambam Medical Centre, where victims of missile attacks and wounded soldiers are beginning to populate the wards.

Since the clashes began, the hospital has also had to adjust to being in the firing line itself, a unique experience in its 98-year history.

"It's very difficult psychologically," said Professor Lael-Anson Best, the Indian-born head of thoracic surgery.

"It's the first time the home front has been attacked. Even during the [1973] Yom Kippur War, Haifa was safe. But now we can be hit at the same rate as everyone else."

Firing line

The hospital came close to disaster on Monday when a missile struck an apartment block just 500 metres away, and every new attack brings with it the threat of a direct hit.

"Even if Hezbollah say they're not deliberately targeting the hospital, they don't know where a rocket is going to land," said Prof Best. "There's no ethics of war out here."

Building police Haifa Police Chief Cmdr Nir Mariash inspects damage near the hospital

The danger has intensified the daily stress under which the hospital's medical staff have to function.

Surgeons are conducting operations with sirens sounding every few minutes, sometimes followed by a dull or heavy thud, depending on how close a missile lands.

Patients recovering from surgery or those on ventilators cannot be moved to the hospital's bomb shelters quickly enough, and medics invariably have to stay with them.

Attack preparations

Resources have also been set aside in case of mass casualties - some 20 trolleys are permanently stationed outside the main entrance where ambulances have been arriving in quick succession.

"We have had to deal with large-scale incidents in the past, such as suicide attacks which have caused 100 casualties," said Professor Raphael Beyar, the centre's director, "but the victims have been spread between hospitals.

There's no ethics of war out here
Professor Lael-Anson Best

"What is different about this war is that now they come here from all over the area and we have to think about our own security.

"The hospital is continually under threat but patients still need treatment."

Just 35km(20 miles) south of the Lebanese border, the centre has historically treated troops injured in combat.

On Wednesday, a soldier injured in the first ground battle with Hezbollah was airlifted from the field and rushed to the hospital.

But for the first time the hospital is receiving civilians with war injuries too.

War wounded

Of the 700 patients being treated at Rambam, about 63 have been hurt in rocket attacks.

Many of the casualties have been wounded by some 14kg of ball-bearings packed into the missile warheads, designed to cause maximum damage.

Ramdam medical centre Trolleys are on stand-by in case of mass casualties

Among those in the hospital recovering from such injuries are survivors of the deadliest missile strike on Israel so far.

From his bed on the ninth floor, Yossi Heder, 39, recalled how he and his workmates were cut down by the ball-bearings, which "went through the bodies like cheese".

The missile slammed through the roof of the railway depot in Haifa last Sunday, killing eight of Mr Heder's colleagues and injuring some 14 more.

It was, for those who died, a "very fast death", he said.

Lucky escape

In the next bed lay Sami Raz, 39, who nearly lost his life in the attack.

Initially, he was believed to have been only superficially wounded, but when Mr Raz was brought to Rambam, Prof Best found his heart had been punctured by a ball-bearing.

Mr Raz underwent emergency surgery, without which he would have died within minutes.

Sami Raz Sami Raz survived a missile packed with ball bearings

As we spoke, a siren warning of an imminent missile strike started up outside, but the patients in this ward could not be moved.

"Don't worry," said Mr Heder, a religious Jew.

"The attack at the railway only strengthened my faith.

"If God wants us to stay alive he'll save us. If not, then that's also his will. Everyone's going to get his day, and with [Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah, it's only a matter of time."

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