John Livingston


Golda Meir was the fourth Prime Minister of Israel and served from 1969 until the end of the Yam Kippur War in 1973. Taking the Israeli Defense Forces by surprise, Egyptian troops invaded deep into the Israeli held Sinai Peninsula, while Syria struggled to throw occupying Israeli troops out of the Golan Heights. Israel counter attacked on both fronts and nineteen days later a cease fire was established with a subsequent reallocation of previously held Jewish lands. Key to all the Israeli victories since 1947 have been the special forces units within the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Elite fighting commando units The Sayeret (reconnaissance), The Mista’arvim (counterterrorism) are both trained to fight asymmetric engagements. The command structure of the Israeli Army is also unique.

With the establishment of Unit 101 by Commander Areil Sharon under orders from Prime Minister David Be-Gurion in August of 1953 the unique relationships between infantry and artillery units and the special forces units called “Pulsar” became the unique fighting force that Israel has protecting it today. Each regular battle brigade or battalion thus has a commando unit attached to it. Benjamen Netanyahu and his older brother Yonatan “Yoni” both served in commando units. Both are war heroes and held in high esteem by the people of Israel no matter their political leanings. Yoni commanded the Sayeret Makkal during the Entebbe raid in 1976 that was launched in response to the hijacking of an international civilian passenger fight from Israel to Paris by Palestinian and German militants. All passengers were saved, but Yoni—the head of the commando force was killed as he placed himself at the head of the line of commandos that stormed the plane sitting on a tarmac.

I present this brief history of the modern Zionist movement because proper context is important. It has not been forthcoming by media experts and those in the academy who have a political narrative to uphold. Golda Meir was born in Russian Kiev. Her family escaped “pogrom” the resettling of Jews. They moved to Milwaukee Wisconsin, and she received a public-school education. She became active in the Zionist labor politics in the USA, and like many Jews who had recently immigrated to the USA she subsequently remigrated with her husband to British controlled Palestine in 1921. She was a signatory to the Israeli Declaration of Independence and was the first woman elected to the Knesset in 1948.

Today this modern-day history, the creation of a lean and mean command structure, and the commitment to train special forces and civilian militia to protect their own nation needs to be reexamined and compared to where we are in our country. Prior to World War II (WWII) our country had gone through a recession then a great depression and a dust bowl draught. My own father-in-law who went on to become a Navy pilot and Captain and Commanding officer of two large military installations, was orphaned as a young child and placed with Catholic Sisters at a very young age, because there was no food for him to eat on the farm. He rose from the hardened dirt of the dust bowl to fight in two wars. He was mentally tough, just like so many of the young people in Israel who fill their Commando units. We still have such young people in our country. Most come from rural areas and farms, but they are becoming fewer and fewer.

Recently there has been an assault on Navy Seal and Special Forces training as being too hard. These criticisms come from politicians and military officers who have never been in battle themselves. There theories of combat and military training are very different from the leaders of Israel, who have been continually fighting for their existence and their very lives every day since 1947. The Israeli response will be characterized as being just as ruthless and barbaric as the Hamas attacks from Gaza, and the Hezbollah attacks in the North. To an Israeli leader this is personal. They have known members of their own families who have been killed by Islamic terrorist. Most Americans are generations removed from having lost a family member in war. In fact, we have today only 5 million men and women on active duty in our military and only 25 million Americans out of 330 million people living in our country have ever served. Our own experience in war and with terrorism even considering 9/11 is very small when we consider what the average Israeli citizen is having to live with. Our opinions are theoretical. What the people in Israel and other hot spots in the world including Taiwan and South Korea and the Ukraine is real and personal. Remember what Joseph Stalin said, “a single death is a tragedy, a million a statistic”. There are thousands of new tragedies in Israel today.

As the pundits far away in our country opine about “just war theory” and an equivocal response—none who have had any experience with war or terrorism themselves, I am more confident letting the leaders in Israel who themselves know both sides of the tragedy of either responding or not responding to evil and terrorism decide how the battle will proceed. The Judeo-Christian faiths and tradition are centered around a culture of “life”. Very different from the terrorists who hide behind women and children—innocent civilians and cut off baby heads and rape grandmothers. I believe with all my heart that the response we will see from the leaders in Israel will be heartfelt, tactical, and as much as possible “humanitarian”.

In closing, I am reminded of one of the greatest quotes from any leader in history about the tragedy of having to defend oneself. Golda Meir, the mother of two children stated as only a mother and woman of faith with a commitment to the sanctity of life could state:

We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We can only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us”.

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