In every way that really matters, Israel’s war is our war, and our war is Israel’s war. In meetings — along with my ACLJ colleagues — with members of the Knesset, former IDF officers, and other government officials, that fundamental reality has been driven home again and again.
Serving a year in Iraq’s Diayala Province with the 2d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, I was exposed to our jihadist enemy at close range. I saw their tactics, I learned their mindset, and we all experienced their absolute depravity. In conversations with Israelis who’ve been on the front lines of their own fight with Hamas and Hezbollah, the same themes and tactics emerge.
“We would track them and as they ran, they’d grab children by the arms and pull them along for protection.”
“They traveled in ambulances, and fired out the back.”
“Their weapons are hidden in mosques and they put missiles in the courtyards of schools.”
And, most haunting of all:
“My friends died protecting Palestinian civilians, while their whole purpose is to kill our women and children.”
Yet again and again we treat the “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict as if it is separate and apart from our own war against jihadists. We tell ourselves that Israel’s conflict can be solved by the right signatures on the right pieces of paper when we hold no similar illusions for our own wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, we understand that the only prelude to real peace is victory over the jihadists. But when it comes to the Israelis, president after president — Republican and Democrat — works to stay Israel’s hand.
Why the difference? Perhaps one answer can be found in the title of this post. In a particularly memorable meeting, a high-ranking official was describing Israel’s friendship with America, and he added: “We don’t ask your sons and daughters to die on our soil. We believe we can and should defend ourselves with our own soldiers. Your soldiers are in Europe, in Japan, in Korea, and elsewhere in the Middle East, but not here.”
While this fierce independence has spared American presidents from making hard decisions regarding American lives, perhaps it has also created a false sense of separation. Without that shared sacrifice and shared experience we fail to understand our common enemy.
To be clear, I’m not advocating an American military presence in Israel. I’m not arguing that the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment should clear Gaza. But we should, however, be aware that their fight is our fight; that the lines between Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are more blurred than we realize, and if Israel is going to continue to defend itself with its own sons and daughters, we should not actively work to deprive it of defensible borders nor should we restrain Israel’s legitimate acts of self-defense.
After all, we should know that true jihad cannot be moderated, only defeated.