Most Jews, both in Israel and overseas love the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). We donate to its support services, we say special prayers regularly for the well-being of the soldiers, we feel grief when soldiers are injured and, tragically, killed, and we rejoice when they return safely from their missions.
It is therefore so incredibly demoralizing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s commander in chief, took the unfortunate action of apologizing to Turkey this week regarding the Mavi Marmara flotilla that entered Israel’s waters (“Israel Apologizes To Turkey For Flotilla Incident,” online).
In my opinion, Netanyahu was wrong on two accounts. First, by taking this action he undermined the brave soldiers who took part in that mission. The IDF has a reputation for being one of the world’s most just armies. The soldiers adhere to a strict code of engagement. They are “permitted” to respond with lethal force only when their lives are in mortal danger. Even a UN inquiry, not normally sympathetic to Israel, exonerated the soldiers.
Secondly, by apologizing for something, to correct an injustice when in fact none existed is demoralizing. The prime minister should be our biggest cheerleader, encouraging Israelis to stand strong for our moral right to exist and to defend ourselves against attacks by enemies.
In the Torah, when Moses sent the spies to spy out the land of Israel, they came back with a biased report. One of the things they said and were faulted for was, Numbers 13:33, “we were like grasshoppers in their eyes.” Failure to have a modicum of self-respect can lead to tragic consequences. Netanyahu has not yet learned that lesson.