Two soldiers kidnapped by a hostile state during non-belligerence—an extraordinary event, possibly a casus belli. Two soldiers kidnapped during war—routine.

Israeli civilians killed during non-belligerence—a casus belli. Israeli civilians killed by suicide bombers during war—routine.

The Israeli response to routine events? None or nothing special. To a breach of the peace? War, strikes, massive death tolls.

We cannot both cry over two MIAs and attack Gaza with artillery. The former characterizes peacetime; the latter, war. Should we let Israeli soldiers die in another politically pointless invasion of Lebanon? Should we kill Lebanese in retaliation? The answer depends on one thing: are we at war or at peace? If at war, follow the normal military course of events. If at peace, then we should reconsider our vocabulary. People in their right mind do not call civilians getting killed on buses and soldiers being kidnapped on two fronts peace. That is not even Newspeak; it is absurdity.

If we are at peace, we do not object to a nearby territory proclaiming itself a state. Whatever. If we are at war, we go in, expel the hostile inhabitants, and make the place a no-man’s land. We do whatever necessary to stop the missiles. The government wants to be polite, to pretend we are at peace. And we are treated to theater of the absurd: strikes against Lebanon. A place full of Christians who hate Hezbollah so far. A country whose parliament is trying to get rid of Hezbollah. A country which, no matter how many bridges we destroy, cannot root out Hezbollah.

We are not going for the root problem. The Palestinians. Whatever Jewish historians write, the Palestinians consider the land theirs. In its entirety. They will never accept Israel. They will wait for the opportunity to strike. The solution to Hezbollah lies in Gaza. In Judea and Samaria. In Jordan. Imagine the impossible: we quash Hezbollah now. In a year, somebody else will show up to support the poor Palestinians. Neither Hezbollah nor Lebanon but the Palestinians are the problem. The Israeli government is going to waste Jewish and Arab lives in Lebanon instead of admitting a simple but rather politically incorrect truth: victors and losers cannot peacefully live side by side. Israel cannot exist alongside a Palestinian state. Instead of saying that, we are going to kill and die in hapless Lebanon.

Negotiating with Hezbollah is pointless. They lose nothing from conflict, rather gain a lot in terms of prestige and money. The Palestinians are losing, but who cares about them? Hezbollah doesn’t. Negotiating with Hamas over the MIA is similarly senseless. Hamas has nothing to lose. They don’t want some jerkwater state. They want the front pages in Arab newspapers. They will keep posturing, no matter the cost. Beside, Uncle Sam and the Europeans will reimburse the costs through ongoing subsidies to the Palestinian entity. Hezbollah seems to be competing with al Qaeda for leadership of the Islamic insurgence. Do we really want to clear the way for al Qaeda by destroying its competitor? Playing the two groups off against each other is a difficult and skilled game, and not the army’s job.

Even if we want to suppress Hezbollah, blowing up Lebanese bridges will not help. Defoliation campaigns against Hezbollah’s heroin plantations are a better bet. Limited retaliatory raids on Syria and Iran, still better. Let the sponsors deal with the monster they nurture. Attacking Lebanon would be a public relations disaster for Israel. Another pointless operation in the same place in twenty years—that smacks of stupidity. Israel’s enemies will welcome it. Syria will be glad only if Israel invades Lebanon: the more it suffers from Israel, the nearer it will lean to Syria. Israeli will drive home to the Lebanese that they cannot survive without Syrian protection. See? Israel is not bombing Syria.

Kidnappings will happen. Israeli soldiers will continue to die. Israeli civilians will die, too. This is war. People die. The only way to stop the toll is to win the war. Don’t pretend we are at peace.