Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Fact Sheets: Proportionality in Conflict

(Updated July 2006)

Israel seeks peace and is still waiting for leaders of the Palestinians and the other Arab states at war with Israel to step forward and follow the examples of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein by ceasing their support for terror and resuming negotiations. Until that happens, Israel must take prudent security measures to protect its citizens.

In responding to the acts of war perpetrated by Hamas and Hizballah, Israel has launched a military campaign to end the threat posed by these two terrorist groups that have each kidnaped Israeli soldiers and unleashed a barrage of rockets on the civilian population of Israel. In prosecuting the war, Israel has come under fire for using “disproportionate” force, but how do you determine the proportionate use of military force?

Since Hizballah’s stated objective is the destruction of Israel, isn’t the appropriate response the destruction of Hizballah? Wouldn’t random missile strikes on Lebanese and Palestinian cities be proportionate to Hamas and Hizballah rocket attacks on northern and southern Israel? Can you imagine any of Israel’s critics accepting those responses?

When Palestinian terrorists plant bombs at Israeli shopping malls and kill and maims dozens of civilians, would the “proportionate response” be for Israelis to plant bombs in Palestinian malls? No one in Israel believes this would be a legitimate use of force. Thus, Israel is left with the need to take measured action against specific targets in an effort to either deter Palestinian violence or stop it.

What would America do if terrorists bombed civilian targets? After 9/11, we saw that America took the same type of action as Israel by launching military strikes against the terrorists. U.S. forces used overwhelming force and, though they never targeted civilians, some were inadvertently killed. Americans believe in Colin Powell’s doctrine, which holds that “America should enter fights with every bit of force available or not at all.”

The United States uses overwhelming force against its enemies, even though the threats are distant and pose no danger to the existence of the nation or the immediate security of its citizens. The threat Israel faces is immediate in time and physical proximity, and poses a direct danger to Israeli citizens. More than a thousand rockets have now fallen on Israel’s cities, not its military installations, its civilian centers. Approximately one million Israelis have fled south or are living in bomb shelters. Still, Israel has not used its full might as the Powell Doctrine dictates. The use of force has been judicious and precise.

Israeli soldiers do not deliberately target noncombatants. The murder of innocents is the goal of the Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists. In fact, what other army drops leaflets to warn people to leave an area they intend to attack even though it gives up the element of surprise and allows the bad guys to hide as well as the innocent to escape?

IDF activities are governed by an overriding policy of restraint and a determination to take all possible measures to prevent harm to innocent civilians.

No innocent Palestinians or Lebanese would be in any danger if the Palestinian Authority took steps to stop terrorism and the Lebanese government had fulfilled the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calling for the disarming of Hizballah and the deployment of the Lebanese army in south Lebanon. Israel would have no reason to take military action if its citizens were not under constant threat.

No innocent Palestinians or Lebanese would be in danger if terrorists did not deliberately hide among them. If the peace-seeking Palestinians and Lebanese prevented the terrorists from living in their midst, Israel would have no reason to come to their neighborhoods.

It is a tragedy whenever innocent lives are lost, and Israelis have consistently expressed their sadness over Arab casualties. By contrast, when innocent Israelis are murdered by terrorists, Hamas and Hizballah hold rallies to celebrate the murders.

As a democracy, when Israeli soldiers make mistakes in battle, they are called to account for those errors. On those occasions when noncombatants are unintentionally injured, investigations are launched and the Israeli public debates the military’s actions.