Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Casualty intolerance

Casualty intolerance


One of the strategic misconceptions demonstrated by Israel's military and
political leadership during the war against Hizbullah in the summer of 2006
was the exaggerated fear of casualties. Indeed, OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. Elazar
Stern, complained after the war that the IDF had displayed "over-sensitivity"
to loss of lives and disclosed the fact that one of the battles during the
2006 Lebanese war was called off because of a few casualties.

Yet, given the clear threat posed by Hizbullah, there was enthusiastic public
backing for offensive operations, even when military casualties were
inevitable. A huge majority of Israelis lent full support to the war. They
wanted an unequivocal victory and were ready to pay a high price for achieving
it. Many who were living in bomb shelters during the war expressed such a
view. Even parents who had lost a child in the war backed the operation's

While the need to avoid reckless loss of human life is self-evident, Israeli
society has in fact shown great resilience in war, as documented by several
studies. It stood strong in the face of the terror campaign launched by the
Palestinians in September 2000, designed to break the spirit of Israeli
society. Similar determination and willingness to carry the brunt of the
battle was exhibited by the Israeli home front during the recent war in

The reluctance to commit ground troops to battle betrays a terrible gap
between Israel's leadership and its people. Israel's political and military
leaders mistakenly believe that Israeli society is tired of the protracted
conflict and is unwilling to pay the price of continuous war.

Ehud Olmert said as much in the past, reflecting a sense of weariness at the
leadership level. Decision makers in the Oslo process, particularly Yitzhak
Rabin, were also motivated by such sentiments and by a similar misperception
of Israeli society. The Four Mothers movement that advocated unilateral
withdrawal from Southern Lebanon (probably one of the factors that led to the
government's May 2000 decision to pull out) was an additional manifestation of
the same syndrome.

THIS MOOD, which has prevailed among Israel's political leadership since the
1990s, affected the military command during the recent war against Hizbullah,
and casualty aversion became a main feature of Israel's military modus

Academics argued that Israel, like other Western democracies, has difficulty
waging war because of casualty aversion. However, such an assumption about the
Western style of war, at times described as "post-heroic" warfare, is not
grounded in fact. Actually, many studies show that casualty phobia is not a
dominant characteristic of the US general public. On the contrary, the
American political leadership can tap into a large reservoir of support for
military campaigns that entail a high human price, provided that those
operations have a chance to succeed. The public is defeat-phobic, not
casualty-phobic. Moreover, mounting casualties are bearable if the goals of
the military missions are seen as politically important. This is patently true
of Israel as well.

Strategically, Israel's reluctance to commit troops in battle is
counterproductive because it signals weakness. The widespread perception
within the Arab world that Israeli society is extremely sensitive to the loss
of human life, invites aggression. It was largely this perception that
motivated the Palestinians to start a terror campaign against Israel in
September 2000. This view is also the basis of the "spider web" theory
concerning Israel, propagated by Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah - namely
that Israel's emphasis on the value of human life as well as its
self-indulgent Western values render it weak and vulnerable.

The fear of military casualties and the subsequent hesitation on part of
Israel's leadership to conduct military operations also constitute a violation
of the basic social contract around which a state is built. In accordance with
the social contract, citizens give up some of their liberties and are prepared
to be taxed in exchange for the state's commitment to provide them with
security. The state is a social institution whose raison d'etre is to provide
its members with security by using its coercive organs, such as the police and
the military.

The Zionist rationale was founded on the desire to end the helplessness of the
Jew in the Diaspora by building a Jewish state whose main function was to
defend its Jewish citizens - by force if necessary. Recently, we have seen an
incredible inversion of the Zionist and the statist rationale. There is
greater tolerance of civilian casualties than of military losses. While
foolproof defense is not always a realistic goal, the Jewish state seems to
have difficulty in fulfilling its most basic function - providing security to
its citizens.

Four thousand Katyushas during the last summer as well as the continuous
downpour of Kassams on Israeli settlements in the Northern Negev raise the
question: Why should Israelis pay taxes to build and strengthen an army, if
the state is reluctant to use the military force at its disposal for the
protection of its citizens?

The author is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and
director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Subscribe to
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by

Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israƫl in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog

Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Isfake lobby

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory