An Israeli journalist says that IDF assassinations of terror leaders recklessly kill civilians, and are a form of terrorism. A former defense chief disagrees. Their debate offers a glimpse into one of the most difficult dilemmas faced by Israel’s military planners.
Haaretz commentator and critic Rogel Alpher wrote Friday that Israeli Jews are completely unmoved by the death of children in Gaza. He also argued that anti-terror operations that claim civilian lives are equivalent to murder.
Alpher expressed the views while commenting on a TV documentary about the botched 2003 assassination of Hamas’ entire top brass. Israeli officials scrapped plans to use a large bomb in the strike to minimize civilian casualties. As a result, the terror group’s leaders survived the attack.
Former Shin Bet director Avi Dichter says in the documentary that the decision to limit the IDF’s firepower was an “operational mistake.” Alpher argued that this proves that the ex-defense chief has no regard for the lives of innocent Palestinians.
“In his view, he has the right to kill civilians and children in Gaza,” Alpher wrote about Dichter. “Who knowingly kills innocent civilians? A terrorist.”
Dichter Hits Back
However, Dichter firmly defended his uncompromising worldview in a lengthy response on Twitter.
“As Shin Bet chief I always made clear to my subordinates the iron rule in fighting terror: ‘It is better to have 1,000 mothers of terrorists cry than one Israeli mother,’” he wrote.
Dichter charged that journalists like Alpher tend to remain silent following deadly terror attacks against Israelis.
“Rogel Alpher’s voice, just like the voice of other commentators elsewhere, grows silent when faced with images of buses torn apart and Israeli bodies lying inside them,” Dichter wrote.
The former security chief argued that the policy of targeted assassinations, combined with other measures, is effective in rooting out terrorists.
“A thousand commentators can write about terrorism, and nothing will happen,” Dichter wrote. “But if one person fights terrorism and delivers the necessary blows, terrorism will decline.”