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Before You Beat Up on Israel

A Commentary By Susan Estrich

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Since Hamas took over in Gaza in 2007, Israel has attempted to enforce a blockade. No one doubts that hardships have resulted -- but not enough hardships for Hamas to renounce its commitment to terror or to the destruction of the state of Israel.

Hamas likes to trumpet its humanitarian works -- its hospitals and health care centers. But Hamas is also a terrorist organization, according to our own government, as well as Israel's. Hamas targets civilians in Israel, claims credit for suicide bombings, and kills soldiers and civilians alike.

If Hamas were to renounce terror, if it were to limit its "governance" to schools and hospitals, there would be no need for a boycott and no shortage of the kinds of supplies the latest flotilla claimed to be bringing.

But Israel has every right to protect itself against those who would destroy it. It has every right, at least, to ensure that humanitarian aid is just that; that it does not include materials to be used to kill innocent Israelis.

That doesn't mean its military should have killed nine activists, who died as a result of Israel taking control of the flotilla headed to Gaza. That was not part of the plan. It was not supposed to happen. And it has obviously exposed Israel to condemnation it doesn't need and has strained relationships that are important to both its security and its economy.

But Israel did not intend to kill the activists. The truth is that Israel sent too few commandos to do the job, not too many; that they did not expect resistance and were too few in number to deal with it without resorting to deadly force.

It seems the Israeli military, which is usually a model for the world, wasn't a model this time. They underestimated the opposition, weren't prepared to handle it and ended up resorting to deadly force in a situation that should have been handled without it.

There is already internal criticism in Israel for these mistakes. Without question, there will be investigations into what went wrong and why. Mistakes were made, however clear it is, even in the grainy pictures, that the Israeli commandos faced resistance.

But has this ever happened with respect to operations conducted by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Have civilians -- not even "activists" aimed at confrontation -- ever been killed because Americans faced more resistance than they expected with fewer troops than they needed to deal with it? Of course. Does the world gather round to condemn us? Should it?

One can look at much of the recent history of the Iraq war as an example of such military miscalculation at the outset, of an invasion with too few troops to do the job, which caused both military and civilian casualties. Wasn't that the argument for the surge? We learned the hard way.

I am sorry for the hardships faced by innocent Palestinians because of the blockade. But that is the doing of Hamas. Elect a government that condemns terror rather than sponsors and supports it, and the hardships would stop. Even now, Israel has said that it is willing to deliver the aid being sent to Gaza -- provided that it is aid.

Israel did not do itself any good in this incident. But before you join the chorus of condemnation, imagine a flotilla of aid vessels heading toward Iraq and Afghanistan to aid the children of the Taliban and al-Qaida. Would we welcome them with open arms? We would not. Hopefully, we'd send enough troops to take over without having to resort to deadly force. But that's not really what Israel is being condemned for, is it?

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.      

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