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Not a week goes by that the Americans don't use warplanes in the center of Iraqi cities, including the capital Baghdad. The use of the planes is directed against the insurgent guerrilla forces, who themselves take no pity on their Iraqi brethren and their mosques. It is clear that the American air strikes in the population centers are causing many innocent civilian casualties.

It is not our role to preach to others, but when the actions of the Israeli Air Force in the war against terror, including the current operation in the Gaza Strip, are compared to what is happening in Iraq, it can be said that the Israel Defense Forces are 77 times more careful than the Americans in their actions in population centers.

The Americans are talking about the need for "proportionality" in the response to the murderous terror, but Israel is implementing it.

Israel cannot allow itself to do what the United States, Russia, England and France do. In those places, proportionality is measured by a different yardstick. It is hard to know how things will develop in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but anyone who is accusing Israel of committing intentional war crimes in its war on terror does not know what he is talking about.

A quick review of the wars that have been conducted in the past decade, including the war that the United States waged with the cooperation of the European states against the Serbs, will find that the preachers of morality did not get help from lawyers when it came to choosing targets in populated areas.

Over the years, an opposite, sometimes exaggerated, approach has developed in the IDF of involving legal experts in operational issues. As compared to the past, this involvement is unprecedented.

The judge advocate general has been brought into the General Staff forum. The outgoing JAG, Dr. Menachem Finkelstein, was promoted the rank of major general. A legal adviser can be found in a division command. The person responsible for international law in the IDF is sometimes involved in issues of pinpoint executions.

All this does not of course do away with the injustices of the occupation or the everyday cruelty on the part of soldiers and border police on the ground, but it does insure that the heart will not be closed off to the moral norms that should exist even in wartime. Even if Israel is not recognizing the Fourth Geneva Convention, because of the dispute over the previous sovereignty in the territories, it is clear that it accepts the humanitarian provisions of the convention.

The change in direction began during the first intifada, with Amnon Strasnov, who was the JAG at the time, and has continued more intensely under Major General Finkelstein, when the violent confrontation was defined legally as fighting (which is close to all-out war).

Despite their suffering, the Palestinians are aware of this change. Usually after a serious terror incident against Israeli civilians, when it is clear that Israel will respond with a military operation, a series of petitions to the High Court of Justice against the IDF begins. In Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, for example, there were 40 applications to the High Court of Justice on operational matters.

This was also the case this year in Operation Rainbow in Rafah. What fighting army among all the armies of the West has been challenged in this way?

Recently Palestinians petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the government and the IDF to implement the ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Palestinian terror, which is directed first and foremost against civilians, is apparently also stirring disagreement among Supreme Court justices.

In one case, in 2001, when the High Court of Justice was asked to deliberate on means that had been chosen for a "pinpoint prevention," in which a master terrorist was assassinated, the justices said the selection of means of fighting are is not an area in which the court sees fit to intervene.

In another petition to the High Court of Justice, in 2001, Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak said that "Israel is engaged in a serious fight against rampant terror. It is acting in accordance with its right to self-defense. This fighting is not being pursued in a normative vacuum. Even in times of fighting everything must be done to protect the civilian population."

When Finkelstein, the outgoing judge advocate general, was asked whether these rules are always observed in a war, his answer was in the negative. But it is also clear that there is no intentional ignoring of the rules.