07/19/2006 06:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

An Answer To Professor Dershowitz' Challenge

Yes, it is imperative that Israel be supported
in efforts to eliminate all weapons that can
threaten her people; to root out and destroy
terrorists who violate common standards of
humanity. No, this need not, cannot, and must
not be done in ways that create unnecessary
deaths of civilian non-combatants.

Let's step back. Many of Israel's strongest
supporters, including myself, realize that the
last decade of policy of occupation was not
wisely conceived or well executed. The essence of what Prime Minister
Sharon was doing, was extricating Israel from that policy, because, with
has vast military experience, he understood.

There is a distinction between supporting Israel,
supporting the Israeli people, supporting the
policies of Peace Now or the Labor Party,
versus buying into the strategy of the more
hard line viewpoints. They had their way, a
better way is needed, Prime Minster Sharon

Lets step back. Many of America's strongest
supporters, realize that the invasion and the
occupation of Iraq was poorly conceived, and
poorly executed, and harmful to our country,
our cause, the people of Iraq, the war against
terrorism. And we seek in good faith, though
our bipartisanship is only met with partisanship,
to find policies that can accomplish worthy goals for America and Iraq.

The problem, Professor Dershowitz, is that
our debate has shifted so far to the right, so
far from policies that are effective and based
on our highest traditions. The right, so to speak
has had their way. It has not worked. A better
way is needed.

Of course, Israel should and must destroy the
terrorist apparatus, weaponry and ability to lob
weapons of death. But in a war that is counter-
insurgent and asymmetrical, there are deadly
dangers, and strategic and tactical weaknesses
in overemphasizing heavy bombardment from
long distance, and aerial bombardment that cannot alway be targeted
efficiently and that inevitably results in civilian deaths that are
not necessary, and offer minimal military gain.

Obviously, in war, there are trade-offs. Some
civilian casualties are inevitable. In earlier
Lebanon crisis President Reagan told Prime
Minister Begin those trade-offs, at that time,
were wrong. Far be it from me, to suggest
what President Reagan would say today, but
I will say this: we miss his voice profoundly.

Lovers of America and lovers of Israel can
believe, and many of us do, that there is a better way than what the
United States States has done in Iraq, and what Israel has at times
done in the occupation. Far be from me, to
suggest what Prime Minister Sharon would
say to us today, but clearly, he was searching
for a better way, and while I never thought I
would say this, his voice is missed, as well.

So I answer your challenge, Professor, this
way: I support an Israeli response that is
aggressive, that does aim to kill the terrorists
to every degree possible, that does create
a zone of safety on the Israel-Lebanon border,
that does destroy as many weapons as
possible without falling into the trap of
"destroying a village to save it."

Democracy in Lebanon is at a critical moment;
the million who marched in the street for
freedom are still there; the Lebanese military
does not have the capacity today to do what is
being asked of them. They need military and
financial support, they need military training
and logistical back up; they need international
backing to fortify their army and policies that help them, help us.

But; it serves neither the values nor the safety
of either America or Israel to destabilize the
nascent democracy that had begun to take
hold in Lebanon. It serves neither our values
nor our safety to advance our security in ways
that kill innocent civilians and non-combatants
without a commensurate military gain that can
justify this. It serves neither our values nor our
safety to alienate so much of the goodwill of
the democratic world, and so many of the next
generation of men and women in the Middle
East who abhor both terrorism and occupation
and who's hearts and minds we need to win,
to win the war.

If God granted me a wish, these policies would
have been constructed by President Gore in
tandem with Prime Minister Rabin, or by
conservatives such as Reagan and Thatcher,
or by Prime Minister Sharon, who were far more sophisticated than most
conservatives today. That wish was not granted, but the facts and the
reality yield overpowering evidence that there are better ways than what
has been done and what is being done today.

We must wage a war to kill the terrorists; we
must combine the military and diplomatic as
President Reagan did in the events leading
up to his talks with Gorbachev and our victory
in the Cold War, remembering that it was the
Soviets, not America, who invaded Eastern

At times we must pay the price militarily, and we must pay the price
economically in offering a better life for young Israelis and Arabs
alike, and we must show far greater commitment to the support of
democracy in Lebanon, which
could be a crown jewel of democratic progress
and a most effective long term guarantee of
Israel's security, and ours.

In fact, the free world also should unite in greater support of
democracy in Iran, which does not mean invasion or air strikes, but
certainly does mean finding ways to support the aspirations of young
Iranians, Iranian women, Iranian workers, Iranian intellectuals, and
advocates of tolerance and freedom. And, as with Iraq, as with
Palestine, as with Lebanon, there must be the credible threat, and at
time use, of military force combined with the force of ideas, the force
of economic opportunity, and the truth that we should never negotiate
out of
fear, but never fear to negotiate.

This will require weapons from the special
forces, special ops, targeted air strikes,
but it will also require the moral integrity of
our values, the economic benefits of our
system, the intelligent use of our diplomacy,
and at every level an understanding that the
real battle, must always be based on a battle
of ideas and aspirations.

So, I say this to you, Professor, with great
respect for you personally, and for your
commitment to Israel, which I certainly share.
But there are times when power can be used
disportionately or unwisely, against our real
interests, against our values, against the unity
that the free world needs now more than ever.

You are absolutely right; and I will raise you
one, about this: Hezbollah, Bin Laden, all of them do indeed want us to
kill civilians, and
they thrive on the Guantanamos and Abu
Ghraibs. Perhaps those who make our policies
should give long and serious reflection to what
this tells us, and why they want this, which of
course is simple. The more we do these things
the more terrorists they recruit, which is why
we must be smart, as well as tough, in waging
our wars.

Being strong, and powerful, and great, gives us
the strength of power and principles to make
every effort to protect the innocent from the
bombs. Being Israel and America should give
us the wisdom and judgment, to know from
our values and learn from our history, that
we must defend like Lions both our security,
and our standards, and to make the maximum
effort to kill the terrorists, while we make the
maximum effort to protect the innocent, which
is what we stand for, and how we win.