Israel must provide a proportionate response, not revenge

Restraint crucial

There are three key reasons why Israel should resist unbridled vengeance and instead, deliver a proportionate response to the killing of three Israeli teenaers, writers Matthew Beard in ABC Online.

As Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has revealed, our political leaders are no less subject to raw fury and outrage than the rest of us. In response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers - Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah -Netanyahu ordered 34 air strikes against Hamas, whom he accuses of being responsible for the deaths; a claim Hamas denies.

Officially, the strikes were in response to a series of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, but there seems to be something more personal about this latest bout of violence.

A series of tweets from the official account of the Israeli Prime Minister appear to demonstrate the extent of the personal outrage felt by Netanyahu: 'They were abducted & murdered in cold blood by human animals. On behalf of the entire Jewish People, I would like to tell the dear families.'

Given the apparent anger and the explicit calls for vengeance, we can imagine the Prime Minister and his defence advisors engaging in a conversation strikingly similar to that depicted in The West Wing. Proportionate responses can be anticipated and factored into the costs of a military operation; they can also be mitigated with good planning. This is all the more true in the case of a long conflict like that which embroils Israel and Palestine, when the methods of one's adversary become familiar and more readily anticipated.

What, then, are the virtues of a proportionate response? First, it is worth understanding fully the attractiveness to the Israeli leadership of a disproportionate response. To my mind, there are three: deterrence, political capital and catharsis:

The deterrent value of a disproptionate response is clear. By retaliating against an unjust attack - allegedly by long-time agitator Hamas - Israel demonstrates that the benefits of even minor incursions against the State will never outweigh the costs incurred by Hamas. While proportionate responses may appear to make war a zero-sum, disproportionate use of military force aims to ensure that when the smoke settles, one's adversary always finishes 'in the red.'

Deterrence - as it always has - presumes that the adversary will buckle under the growing cost of business when the retaliatory strikes are so severe. This, in turn, reduces the amount of military attacks either side undertakes, protecting civilian lives, military assets and the security of both parties. Peace down the barrel of a gun is still peace, after all.

The disproportionate response of Israel promises to yield political capital. This is politically advantageous in a number of ways.

FULL STORY The Virtue of a Proportionate Response: Why Israel Must Resist Personal Vengeance (ABC Online)

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