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In the Wake of Tragic Accidents, Israel Is Lectured on Restraint

Interesting how countries not faced with annihilation are eager to counsel those that are.

Recently Israeli ground forces mistook friendlies for the enemy. The tragic error resulted in three hostages who had escaped Hamas imprisonment being killed. In addition, a French foreign ministry worker was killed during fighting in Rafah. The incidents marked a disastrous week for Israel, which assumed responsibility and expressed heartfelt regrets. But Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin felt obligated to join the parade of White House national security and diplomatic representatives dispatched to Israel to provide US counsel. The French called for an investigation and a ceasefire. Hamas, the terrorist organization that started the war, was not available for comment.

Onlookers Free With Advice for Israel

The Biden administration’s predictable advice to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant has been to reduce the level of intensity on the battlefield. During Austin’s speech at the recent Reagan National Defense Forum, he explained his view of the kind of urban warfare in which Israel finds itself:

“You see, in this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat. So, I have repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative. And so, I have personally pushed Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties, and to shun irresponsible rhetoric.”

New Banner Military AffairsOn December 18, Austin paid his second visit to Israel and, according to reports, delivered a stronger message for restraint, expressing the Biden administration’s concern about Palestinian civilian deaths. These numbers are based solely on Hamas claims, however, not an independent reliable source. Austin repeated the refrain that the IDF should be more precise and targeted in bombing. Easy counsel from those sitting in the Old Executive Office Building or the third-floor E-Ring in the Pentagon. Not so simple when you’re a young Israeli infantryman climbing over urban rubble to engage in a firefight.

When Austin visited Israel shortly after the savage October 7 attack by Hamas on unsuspecting Jewish communities, the US defense chief told his counterpart Gallant and Israel’s military leader Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, “the large number of troops [Hamas] had assembled at the border of Gaza, combined with the air campaign, was excessive.” Austin’s use of the word “excessive” is interesting.

Excessive Force: It’s in Eye of the Beholder

During the Iraq War, the US military went after a well-known terrorist in an urban section of Baqubah, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad. On June 7, 2006, the US Air Force dispatched two F-16 Falcon fighter jets, and the lead aircraft dropped two precision-guided 500-pound bombs. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of the most sought-after terrorists at the time, was dead – mission accomplished. Would Austin find that excessive? Perhaps it would have been better for US soldiers, at great risk, to deploy a sniper for a “one shot, one kill” solution.

However, in deference to the US insistence on Israel using targeted munitions in attacking Hamas terrorists, “Israel’s military announced Tuesday [Dec. 19] that it has taken out Subhi Ferwana, a ‘Hamas financier involved in transferring tens of millions of dollars to the Hamas terrorist organization’s military wing,'” Greg Norman reported for Fox News. The IDF explained the Israeli jet used a precision weapon to eliminate the Hamas banker, which satisfied the Biden administration’s request and eliminated a source of funding for the enemy – killing two birds with one air attack, so to speak.

Israel is battling to prevent future attacks like the October 7 massacre and has little appetite for the guidance of countries that, although supportive in words, counsel restraint in destroying mortal enemies like Hamas. While there are international calls for a sustainable ceasefire, that will not bring about the destruction of the terrorist organization.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.

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