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What Was Israel Supposed to Do?

The government of Israel keeps saying their actions in Gaza are justifiable because they are doing it in retaliation for what Hamas has done. Hamas says the same exact thing -- that they are firing the rockets in retaliation for what Israel did in imposing a blockade and bombing their tunnels and leaders. I find both points completely unpersuasive -- yes, including Israel's.

Every day now, I hear someone saying, "What was Israel supposed to do? Hamas keeps firing rockets into their country." So, here is a quick list of the things they were supposed to do:

1. Not break the cease-fire in the first place.

Yes, I understand their frustration with the tunnels, which are used not only to smuggle in food, medicine and goods, but also to smuggle in weapons. But those weapons were not being used until Israel started bombing the tunnels.

What were they supposed to do? Wait until the weapons were used? Yes! That's the point of a cease-fire. I know Israel would not like any of their enemies to have any weapons. From their perspective that makes sense. But Israel doesn't need tunnels for weapons, the US just gives them to them and their weapons are a thousand times bigger.

So, yes, you do not bomb just because the other side might acquire one percent of the weapons you have. Otherwise, you will always be bombing, because it is logical for the other side to try to acquire those weapons for what they perceive to be self-defense.

If you're threshold for starting violence is that the other side is thinking about it (close to the rationale we used in Iraq), then you will always be starting wars. Self-defense, my ass. Those are called first strikes. If you think it's necessary, fine, but don't pretend that you didn't start the hostilities.

2. You are stronger. Don't strike back.

I know people will say that's crazy. You have to retaliate! Otherwise you will show weakness! Again, that is exactly what Hamas says to their fellow Palestinians. "We have to strike back! We can't let the Israelis push us around anymore!"

And what do we tell them? Choose non-violence instead. I must have said that a million times in reference to Hamas and the Palestinians. So, why can't I say the same thing to Israel? Why are the Palestinians the only ones that must choose non-violence? Shouldn't Israel also choose non-violence?

In fact, the strong have a responsibility to be better than that. They can lead the way toward peace because they know if it comes down to all out war, they can destroy the other side.

Sometimes an older brother doesn't hit back his younger brother because he knows he can cause more damage than the little guy. That is being smart, responsible and decent. Hitting a UN school and killing 30 civilians, mostly children, is not being any of those things.

3. Make a peace deal already.

Here is the standard response to this: "We are ready to make a peace deal but the Palestinians won't agree. Arafat walked away from a deal in 2000. They don't want peace." That's horse crap. In negotiations, people accept certain deals and won't accept others. That's completely normal. Ehud Barak also walked away from that deal because he had an election coming up in the beginning of 2001. That's also normal. If people don't like deals enough, they walk away from them.

The biggest dispute was over what percentage of the West Bank Israel would keep. That is a perfectly fair dispute. Either side could have given in and taken a lower percentage. Neither side did.

Could Israel have had a deal if they gave up all of the West Bank, split Jerusalem and gave the right of return for Palestinian refugees? Absolutely. Every single negotiator involved in the process will tell you the Palestinians would have taken that deal in a second.

Now, if I was Israel would I take that deal? No. But that's my point; both sides could have a deal instantly if they gave up a little bit more than they are willing. So, to pretend only the Palestinians are unwilling to negotiate is silly. And right now, Israel says they can't negotiate with Hamas because Hamas won't recognize Israel's right to exist. And Hamas says Israel will not recognize their right to exist (which is true; in fact, Israel just started an invasion to eradicate Hamas). Both sides are ridiculously obstinate.

Again, it is incumbent upon the strong to bend a little, especially if they claim they really, really want peace. But even if you don't want to bend during the negotiations and you want to keep a slightly higher percentage of the West Bank, please don't pretend you didn't have a choice.

Finally, let me ask you this personal question to give you a sense of what people mean when they say Israel is acting disproportionately. Let's say you're walking down the street in your local town and you hear gun fire. You have a vague suspicion that someone is firing at you from a nearby school, would you firebomb the school just in case?

You know what the answer to that question is, if you're a decent human being. No way. You might be scared out of your mind. You might be afraid for your life. But you are not going to throw a bomb into a school full of children just in case (especially when you're not even sure that's where the shots are coming from). You would be called a psychopath if you did. But today, we hear excuses like, "Hey, that's what happens in wars." Maybe, that's why it is incumbent upon us to try a little harder to avoid them. So that we don't all act like psychopaths when they start.

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