A “disproportionate reaction.” This is how Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, characterized — on the very first day of the war — Israel’s operations against Hamas, the terrorist brotherhood that rules Gaza. Many French citizens will return the compliment. What may be truly “disproportionate” is to pass judgment on the Hebrew state for fulfilling its primary duty as a state: to protect the safety of its land and its people.
Is Gaza under Israeli occupation? No. The Israelis withdrew from the enclave to a man in 2005. Is Hamas a legitimate ruler in Gaza? No way. It seized power there in 2007, as the result of a civil war against the Palestinian Authority. Has Hamas engaged in systematic aggression against Israel ever since then? Yes. Is it conducting repeated, blind shelling against civilians in southwest Israel? Yes. Has Hamas abducted an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on Israeli soil, and does it keep him as a hostage, which is under international law a crime against humanity? Yes. Has Hamas one-sidedly announced it was canceling a several-month lull with Israel? Yes. Does it publicly list the destruction of the Israeli republic and of the Israeli society as political aims? Yes. Under such conditions, Israel’s right to make war on Hamas and to destroy it is absolute.
And the military operations the state of Israel undertakes to that effect are more urgent, more compelling, better rooted in reason, and more legitimate than most present French military operations, including the French deployment in Afghanistan. No doubt France is founded to act abroad to defend its own long-term interest and the free world’s values. Still, it is not a matter of death or life for the French nation or the French citizens. Whereas destroying the Hamas menace is a short-term matter of death or life for Israel as a nation and every single Israeli citizen.
Why is Sarkozy, a man known for his pro-Israel sympathies, taking such a negative line? Why is he suddenly eager to distance himself from the United States, which correctly assessed Hamas’ responsibility in the crisis and made clear that Israel was right to act in self-defense?