Israel has lost another war

Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
 - Anonymous ancient proverb
Once again Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proved that he is not formed from the same mold as Prime Ministers David Ben Gurion, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, or Menachem Begin. Compared to those erstwhile giants, he is a political pigmy, easily frightened off by civilian casualties and by negative world opinion.

By announcing a unilateral cease fire, he has, as he did in the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, let Israel lose again and let the terrorists win again. 

Hamas won because it did not lose. It celebrated by firing rockets into Israel and warning that the ceasefire is contingent upon Israel's withdrawing all its troops from the Gaza Strip and opening all borders. Additionally, a Hamas spokesman proclaimed the  "right to bring arms in any way we find fit."

Debka, the Israeli internet publication, was correct when it predicted at the outset of Operation Cast Lead that Hamas was "counting on inflicting casualties that will mount up week after week and wear Israeli forces down until they are driven into an ignominious retreat." It was also correct when it quoted, after the operation had ended, an unnamed senior Israeli officer as saying "For this we didn't have to go o war."

Even after the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, Olmert and Company still don't get it. They still refuse to accept the truth of Prof. Fouad Ajami's observation that the Islamist "is never alone; the terrorist on the fringe of political life always works with the winks and nods of the society that gives him cover." They still cannot live guiltlessly with the reality that if the terrorists are killed in their beds, and if those beds are located next to the beds of Gaza civilians, that is the price that the latter have chosen to pay for aiding the terrorists within their midst. 

There was a time when Arab terror was always met with immediate and effective Israeli retaliation -- in Hebrew the phrase is Teror v'Tagmul. There was a time when Israel gave notice to both friend and foe that, since the Holocaust, the era of unarmed Jews being killed with immunity and impunity was over. That was the time of "Never Again!"

Contrary to common belief, you defeat your enemies by using disproportionate force. You don't, as the Americans, Russians, and British demonstrated in the Second World War, defeat them with proportionate force, or with truces, cease fires, and time-outs to deliver humanitarian aid to enemy civilians. 

Also contrary to common belief, you vanquish your enemies not by winning their hearts and their minds, but by crushing them so decisively that you break their will, and they finally acknowledge that they have been vanquished. Only after you have crushed them can you do something about their hearts, their minds, and their bellicosity.

The fact is that the Israelis will never be able to change their neighbors' attitudes. They will never be able to make the Arabs like or accept them. But by adopting the rules of their neighborhood, the Israelis can make the Arabs fear and respect them.

The first rule of the neighborhood is "War is a test of wills, not of weapons." At the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, a senior Israeli military officer said that the goal was to make "Hamas lose their will or lose their weapons." Israel has its ceasefire, but Hamas still has its will and enough weapons to matter.

The second rule is "Never let your fear of what others think cloud your judgment." By initiating the ceasefire, the Israelis have again allowed world public opinion to affect their judgment and dictate their actions.

And the third rule is "If you are afraid of taking or inflicting casualties, you will lose the zero-sum game that we play in the Middle East."

The political and military lessons are clear: Israel must do what it must do, and do it well. No matter what it does, its friends will be its friends and its enemies will be its enemies. Most importantly, Israel must abandon its habit of letting existential enemies snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Otherwise, it will cease to exist as a sovereign state.