It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose – It’s How You Value Life

Recently coming from a ten day trip to Israel with my family, it struck me as odd to see a country bustle and move as if nothing had happened. The streets were filled with tourists and locals, the markets were crowded and business was going on as usual. This was a terrific site for me, someone who believes in Israel and hopes for its safety and security, to see that the war with Hizbullah had not dampened the spirit of the nation. I picked up an Israeli newspaper and read that Hassan Nasrallah had publicly stated that he erred in his calculation and did not expect Israel to respond so hard. People that I spoke with were elated at the news – “we did win” were the cries.

We did? I thought. Last I checked the goals for going to war in the first place were never reached. The two kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev have not been returned, and in Gaza, Gilad Shalit has also not been returned. Was this a victory for Israel, Hizbullah, Lebanon, terror, no one, or all sides? Everyone claims the victory; the terrorists in Lebanon and its supporters around the globe simply see that the daunting Israel Defense Force of the Entebbe days and the multi-frontal Six Day War victory could not defeat a rag-tag group of better-than-anyone-expected fighters; the Israelis see Nasrallah’s admission as their victory. That and the fact that hopefully Hizbullah will now be far enough from the Israeli border to do much damage as long as UNIFIL troops do not conspire with Israel’s enemies in a repeat of the 2000 kidnappings and murders. The Lebanese see Israel being militarily emasculated and also see themselves possibly gaining sovereignty over their own country now; and terrorists worldwide who all share their hatred of Jews and Israel in an uncommon unity for these fundamentalists see the appearance of a weakened Israeli army, the leader of Hizbullah still standing and being reckoned with and the fact that the kidnapped Israelis will now be pawns in a prisoner swap of roughly 400:1 as a huge victory for their causes.

Many ask what this was all for, then. How could Israel have miscalculated so severely and ultimately come to the same outcome that would have been rendered under Nasrallah’s original vision. Meaning, had Israel just negotiated, as they seem to be now, they would have avoided the image of a less-than mighty military and they could have avoided the public images losses of Qana and other staged civilian death scenes and their own losses as well.

Israel had to act to demonstrate that it will fiercely fight to protect and defend every single citizen – and it accomplished that. In Nasrallah’s statement we find solace that the message not to mess with Israel was delivered. It may not have been an authoritative victory, but the human and financial losses and setbacks suffered may hinder another such kidnapping attempt – sadly, it just may, not will. But Israel also demonstrated something far greater, and if the media would ever stop to look with unbiased eyes, it would come to the same conclusion. Israel values life – and that cannot be said for any of its fundamentalist enemies who send the young to blow themselves up, or even to provoke a deadly war with Israel.

Israel will defend just one soldier – and risk and even lose lives of its soldiers and civilians in doing so. Israel will negotiate to return 800 of its enemy conspirators to get just two of its servicemen back – how many Hizbullah can that be said about? Israel’s prisoners walk back over the border in relatively good health, while Israeli prisoners of terrorists are all too often returned for proper burial – and even then, Israel negotiates living beings for these remains.

Finally, Israel could have won a definitive victory over Hizbullah, and no one doubts that Israel has the weaponry and armaments to deliver Lebanon back to the Stone Age, but it fought this war to much criticism from within by selectively targeting and avoiding mass casualties. Lebanese report that about 1000 died in this war – if you choose to believe that number and if you choose to believe that they were all civilians and not Hizbullah fighters – but for the tons of warheads, bombs and explosives and hundreds of thousands of bullets released by Israel, that number should have been considerably higher. Consider this – it took a lot less explosive power to bring down the World Trade Center and kill nearly 3000 people.

So who won – no one, maybe, or everyone perhaps? One thing is clear, Israel comes out demonstrating that it values life and it wants to see it persevere in the region. That is a winner to me.

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