An Open Letter to the Israeli War Cabinet

To our cabinet members Netanayahu, Gantz, and Gallant:

You have stated that Israel has two goals in this current war: 1. To defeat Hamas 2. To return the kidnapped.

In my Talmudic training, I have been taught that when something has two reasons, goals, or motivations we need to examine the relationship between them. Is one primary and one secondary? Are they exactly equal? This analysis helps us understand what to do when the two are in conflict with each other. Similarly, I would like to ask you to explore this question as well. What is the interplay between these two excellent goals of the current war?

Let us start with the following thought. What if one of the goals can be accomplished at the expense of the other? For instance, if we bombed all of Gaza with large bunker penetrating bombs, we would accomplish our first goal of defeating Hamas, but prevents the possibility of rescuing our kidnapped hostages. On the other hand, what if Hamas offers to return all the prisoners on condition that we enter into a year long ceasefire? This would mean that all of Israel’s citizens remain in missile range of Hamas who can now start to rearm and rebuild their army, but at the same time we have secured our second goal of freeing the prisoners? Perhaps, you may argue that both goals are equal, and thus since both goals are not accomplished this is not a viable solution that you would agree to, preventing such a deal.

Let us move on to a less black and white question. What if the methods of battle for one are very different than the for the other goal. For instance, if the goal is to save and rescue all the kidnapped people, this may lead to a war that could last many years since it involves going into each tunnel and building in all of Gaza. We cannot be satisfied with bringing down Hamas power or even blindly bombing areas that we know have no innocent Gazans, since perhaps our prisoners are still there. Is it reasonable that in order to accomplish both goals we need a 10 year war where we go building to building as opposed to something much faster to bring down Hamas? What about the financial cost to the country? Do we say again that both goals are equal and we are willing to suffer the financial cost, as well as the cost of 300,000 soldiers fighting indefinitely?

And finally, I have one more question to deal with in our exploration of the relationship between these two goals. Are both “priceless” goals? Meaning, we cannot consider what price we are paying in our own soldiers’ lives to accomplish them? For example, if the only goal was to free the hostages, would it make sense to sacrifice a number of soldiers that greatly exceeds the number of hostages? Is any number of wounded, dead and mourning families worth this? Clearly, the goal of saving Israel from a real threat on every citizen gives more leeway to this decision to not consider the number of dead. So, how do you decide if the estimated number of casualties for both goals is an order of magnitude greater than if we only try to destroy Hamas? It would seem to make sense that to bring down Hamas which poses a threat to every Israeli in all of the land of Israel, the sacrificing of soldiers’ lives seems to makes sense without calculation what number is too great a risk. The alternative is leaving all of Israel in a state of a lack of security. But if to accomplish only the goal of the destruction of Hamas, we can have an order of magnitude less casualties since they do not need to enter each tunnel and house, perhaps this creates tension between the two goals?

I look forward to hearing real answers to these questions in your next press conference.

About the Author
David Rosenstark made Aliya from New York in 1993 and resides in Bet Shemesh with his family
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