Cross posted from the New York Times Room for Debate where the question asked was How Can Targeted Killings Be Justified? Also participating in the debate were Law professor and author Alan Dershowitz, Law professor George Bisharat, Micah Zenko from the Council on Foreign Relations, and author George Jonas.
The assassination of the Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari will no doubt provoke international criticism of the targeted anti-terror campaign by the Israel Defense Forces. It should be noted that Israel’s action was a mild response in light of the 9,000 Palestinian rockets that have targeted Israeli civilians since 2005. A targeted response is even more pressing given that Hamas has Fajr-5 and other long-range missiles that are capable of striking Tel Aviv. Gaza is densely populated and Hamas is known for using its own civilians as human shields, but Israel’s carefully calibrated attack against Jabari resulted in only one other casualty — another Hamas official.
With that said, assassinations are generally an issue of national policy and international affairs, as they usually involve attacks on the territory of another sovereign state or entity. Using force in this arena is not only risky, but also always controversial, no matter what country engages in such an operation. Ultimately, security agencies are obligated to defend their citizens, and sometimes the use of targeted killing is necessary.
At the same time, such maneuvers must be executed meticulously so as to not cause an unwanted escalation. Many a critic has referred to assassinations as â€œunethical,â€ but the only unethical action you can take in warfare is the failure to act in the best interest of your people.
Jessica Snapper is a security analyst working in the Israeli private sector.