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Are the Israeli Defense Forces Defensive?



Taking a closer look at the IDF

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) constitute the military forces of the State of Israel. Israel, which has mandatory conscription for both males and females, has one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world. Surrounded by adversaries in the region, Israel has been forced to defend itself since its inception as a modern state. Arab governments have opposed the existence of a Jewish state since the British Peel Commission of 1937 proposed a two-state solution in which the Arabs would receive 80 percent of the disputed land. Palestinian opposition is particularly strong, up to the present day. As Palestinian-born Israeli journalist Khaled abu Toameh suggested, the Palestinian Authority (PA) would reject peace with Israel even if the Israelis were to offer the PA 99 percent of the West Bank because they are fundamentally opposed to the existence of a Jewish State.

Toameh writes that the PA leadership and President Mahmoud Abbas view anyone who accepts less than 100 percent of their demands or tries to normalize relations with Israel as treasonous. This seriously complicates negotiations, because the PA is simply unwilling to compromise. In 2000, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected the Israeli offer of Gaza, 94 percent of the West Bank, and East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State. Bill Clinton, who facilitated these talks at Camp David said Arafat was “here 14 days and said ‘no’ to everything.” The PA’s unwillingness to negotiate has put Israel on the defensive, creating the need for a tough military capable of defending its millions of innocent civilians.

And Israel has risen to the occasion. In 70 years, the IDF went from being nonexistent to one of the most advanced militaries in the world. Due in large part to the hostile nature of its neighbors, Israel has innovated and built up an impressively high-tech arsenal. In 1947, the Palestinians forwent peace by launching an all-out war against Israel. Joined by Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, the Palestinians attacked the Jews who defeated the coalition. After the war, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel was attacked again in 1967 during the Six-Day War, which “ended in a stunning victory for Israel.” The Israeli government sought to return Gaza and the West Bank to the region’s Arabs, but their efforts were thwarted by the infamous “three no’s” issued by the Arab League at the Khartoum Resolution. Through this resolution, the Arab League officially reaffirmed its position as unwilling to accept peace or negotiate with Israel. Since Israel left Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005, it has become a terrorist base and poverty-stricken wasteland.

Hamas, the terrorist group that runs Gaza, uses human shields by launching rockets at Israeli civilian targets from hospitals and schools. The Jerusalem Post reports that 1,000 rockets were fired into Israel in 2018, up from the 100 launched in the previous three years combined. Facing such attacks from the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades has forced Israel to innovate. Israel responded to the reality of living in constant fear of rocket attacks by developing the Iron Dome defense system. The Iron Dome detects, assesses, and intercepts “incoming rockets, artillery, and mortars” which would otherwise kill innocent civilians. The system is able to function in all weather conditions, twenty-four seven. Raytheon reports that the Dome is the world’s most-used missile defense system, having destroyed over 1,500 rockets. And it has had a success rate of over 90 percent.

Even though Gaza is a constant and immediate threat to Israeli security, the IDF is purely defensive and invading Gaza to squash Hamas would be considered too offensive. Last month, when rockets were fired from Gaza into Tel Aviv, the IDF responded by executing 100 precisely targeted strikes. Before retaliating, Israel sends notes to civilians in Gaza telling them when and where the defensive strikes will occur so that they can leave. The IDF continually responds to rocket attacks in this defensive way. In response to last month’s rocket firings, for example, the IDF hit targets such as “the headquarters responsible for the planning and execution of terror attacks in the West Bank” and an underground Hamas training complex. Hamas’s Gaza Health Ministry “said there were no immediate reports of casualties” after Israel’s retaliatory strikes.

Given the immense power deficit between Israel and Hamas, the IDF shows incredible restraint in the way they defend the State of Israel. Middle Eastern conflict is enormously complicated, and we need to pursue truth and hold every party accountable for its actions. While no group is without flaw, the IDF has proven itself to be indispensable in the pursuit of peace.

John Hale is a sophomore studying Political Science and Italian with a minor in Theology. He loves his family, travelling, and plane spotting at Detroit Metro Airport. You can contact him at jhale1@nd.edu.

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