Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday that "no one will dictate to us our rules of engagement when we are fighting for our lives." The comments were made in response to United States questioning Israel's rules of conduct following the publication of a conclusion of an Israeli probe, which determined that a stray IDF bullet likely killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
This is not the first time White House officials are criticizing Israel, even though those in the U.S. security establishment understand that our conduct is of the highest standard. A few years ago, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said that when he wants to learn how to protect innocent lives, he learns from Israel, who does it best.
Dempsey's statement is backed by every respectable research that has examined the data on uninvolved civilians who were wounded or killed during armed conflicts.
According to research data from The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, 71% of casualties in counterterrorism operations conducted by the U.S. during the "war of terror" era were uninvolved civilians. Only 29% were terrorists.
So, appears the U.S. has something to learn from Israel. Even Israel's harshest critics would have to admit that fewer innocent lives are lost during operations conducted by IDF, compared to those carried out by the U.S. military.
The same goes for the Abu Akleh case. Israel conducted an extensive investigation, and even if our bullet did kill the Al Jazeera reporter, it was done in error, not with intention. The investigation was conducted and published because the IDF is scrutinized more than any other army in the world.
However, when the U.S. military headed the so-called "war on terror" coalition following the invasion of Iraq in the years 2003-2018, some 362 military journalists were killed. Many of them at the hands of U.S. soldiers. Not a single investigations has been launched into their deaths. Not one! But they are so brazen as to demand it from us.
Dempsey’s remark was made following 2014 Gaza war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge. Jen Psaki was then the spokesperson for the State Department. At the time, she claimed that “Israel could have, and should have, done more to avoid harming innocents.” But how can the chief of the U.S. military say one thing, and the spokesperson another?
Matt Lee, the Associated Press journalist in the White House, presented Dempsey’s remark to Psaki. She didn’t manage to explain the contradiction well. But Lee pressed her, saying the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew more than her.
That contradiction stands to this day. Israel exhibits the highest of standards during its operations, yet still criticized by the U.S. for harming innocent lives.
This absurdity cannot continue. Even if a small-scale crisis was to emerge, the prime minister was correct in telling our dearest friend: "You've crossed the line."