There is a fascinating article in the Washington Post reprinted here on Israel's use of targeted killings: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14536281/
The article is quite long but I'll reprint some of it below for those who don't want to read the entire article but do want a glimpse into Israeli policy making.
During the recent Lebanon incursion I made the case that Israel did all it could to limit civilian casaulties but the difficulty of its job was compounded by Hezbollah's use of human shields. I made the case that Israel provided advance notice to the civilian population of a pending attack using several different methods including the hijacking of civilian radio station frequencies, the dropping of leaflets and actually making indivdual phone calls on landline and cellular networks. Of course this limited the effectiveness of Israeli bombing against their intended targets as it gave Hezbollah fighters time to clear out and leave the hapless women and children to suffer the consequences of the war. Of course, civilian casualties, on both sides, was always in Hezbollah's calculus as both types of losses advanced its goals: the death of Israeli civilians was considered a military victory by Hezbollah and the death of Lebanese civilians was considered a diplomatic and public relations victory.
Which brings me to the topic at hand: Targeted Assassinations. I reprint portions of this article below to show to what extent Israeli leaders go in order to limit civilian casaulties even if it means, as in this case, a missed opportunity to kill terrorists who are planning the murder of Israeli civilians. The reprinted text is in italics, the bold emphasis is mine and my comments are in "normal" text:
It was Sept. 6, 2003, a time -- much like today -- of open warfare between Israel and Hamas, which Israel, the United States and Europe have labeled a terrorist group, and which now controls the Palestinian Authority. Eight Hamas leaders had gathered to plan terrorist attacks, Israeli intelligence reported.
"It was like bin Laden, Zarqawi and Zawahiri in a meeting, and having the capability to hit them," said Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, then the air force chief, and now the military chief of staff.
......"We face a tragic dilemma," said Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, chief of military intelligence. "A terrorist is going to enter a restaurant and blow up 20 people. But if we blow up his car, three innocent people in the car will die. How do we explain it to ourselves?"
........But for Yaalon, military chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, the Talmudic precept, "If he comes to kill you, kill him first," conflicted with a Biblical commandment, "Thou shall not kill."
........"It's the lives of Israelis on one hand, the lives of Palestinians on the other," Yaalon said, balancing his palms like the scales of justice. ......"When I sign the orders," he said, "my hand trembles."
The Israelis seek legal, ethical advice on these assassinations. Note the very strict criteria:
......Reisner concluded it was legal, with six conditions: that arrest is impossible; that targets are combatants; that senior cabinet members approve each attack; that civilian casualties are minimized; that operations are limited to areas not under Israeli control; and that targets are identified as a future threat. Unlike prison sentences, targeted killing cannot be meted out as punishment for past behavior, Reisner said. In 2002, a military panel established that targeting cannot be for revenge, but only for deterrence.........
"It's not an eye for an eye," Dichter said. "It's having him for lunch before he has you for dinner."
........Almost every day, Yaalon had to decide who would live or die. "Who is a 'ticking bomb'? Can we arrest him? Who is a priority -- this guy first, or this guy first?" Yaalon recalled. Once a week, military intelligence and Shin Bet proposed new names. At first, the list was limited to bombers themselves, but several years later it expanded to those who manufacture bombs and those who plan attacks.
"I called it 'cutting weeds.' I knew their names by heart," Yaalon said. How many did he kill? "Oh, hundreds, hundreds. I knew them. I had all the details with their pictures, maps, intelligence, on the table. Where does he live? What is his routine? Is he married? How many children did he have? If he had lots of kids, it crossed my mind."
Once again, the concept of the "banality of evil" is introduced:
It was hard to fathom, Yaalon said: "It became a routine to look into their eyes in the photo. In certain cases it's unbelievable -- he looks so naive, a young guy looks nice, a baby face, especially a 16-year-old suicide bomber. It's beyond imagination."......
When the prime minister approves a target -- a requirement that can take months -- the name is transferred from the Notebook to a shortlist typed on a laminated card. Commanders carry the card in their pockets, along with bus passes and keys. Each target is assigned a file, with instructions on when and where he can be killed. Specialists mark up maps -- green lines for open roads where killings minimize civilian risk, red lines for congested areas to be avoided, Yaalon said. An operation can take 200 people, thousands of man hours, and cost $1 million, Halutz said.
In this particular attack they try to calculate the smallest bomb that will do the job in order to minimize civilian casaulties:
A half-ton bomb wouldn't finish the job, the air force chief said. A one-ton bomb would blow out the neighboring apartment building, which was filled with dozens of families......
......."How can we look in the eyes of our pilots if they kill innocent people?" Yaalon argued.
"And if the terrorists walk out alive, and tomorrow another bus explodes, how do we explain it to our people?" Dichter said.
It was a familiar debate. How many civilian casualties were acceptable? ..............More than half of all targeted operations have been called off, a senior military source said, because of danger to noncombatants. The current air force chief, Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, said in an interview that collateral damage had been decreasing from one civilian death per assassination in 2002 to one civilian death for every 25 terrorists killed in 2005. One reason was technology, Yaalon said. At first, Apache helicopters fired Hellfire antitank missiles, he said. Yaalon asked Rafael Armament Development Authority, a Defense Ministry affiliate, to manufacture smaller warheads.
.........One senior intelligence official recalled watching in horror as a missile flew toward a target, while a woman approached the man. It was too late to divert the rocket, the Israeli said: "We were saying, 'Whoa! Where is she going? Move away! Move away!' " An instant later, the man was killed, the woman, wounded.
......."I learned, 'Remember and don't forget.' I drank it like mother's milk. It meant that Jews shouldn't be killed, but it also means that we don't kill others. You need strength to defend Israel, and on the other hand, to be a human," Yaalon said. "This is the tension, the heaviness of the decision."
You can read the rest for yourself but the bottom line is that the military used a 1/4 ton bomb in order to limit civilian casaulties which only demolished the top floor of the three story building and the terrorists survived the attack.
Do you think that Hezbollah when they are about to fire an unguided Katusha rocket into Israel does this type of "cost-benefit" analysis?
Do you think that any arab government that has ever been at war with Israel has gone to these lengths and wrestled with its conscious in this way?
I doubt it.