Last November Herbert London wrote an article about Israel and just war theory. It is worth reading in full; it perfectly summarises the difference in the philosophies of Israel and its enemies.
A few paragraphs:
There were even times when the Israeli soldiers put their own lives at risk to avoid killing an innocent person. Time after time a known terrorist hiding behind “human shields” in an apartment complex was spared to avoid the death of people who were innocent. Rockets launched from a school roof remained untouched until children had left the premises. In the heat of battle Israeli forces maintained a level of moral behavior that was exemplary.
Many commentators on this subject point to an Arab boy of about fifteen crying as he approached a checkpoint. Soldiers on the scene went into high alert. It seemed clear that this distraught youngster was recruited to be a suicide bomber. One Israeli soldier, recognizing the boy’s agitation, called out to him, “Brother” in Arabic. He could not be sure when or whether the boy would set himself ablaze. Nonetheless, the IDF soldier continued to walk to the boy, took him in his arms and disarmed the explosive device around his waist — all the while knowing that often the Palestinians use a remote control device to explode suicide bombers. The episode also tells a great deal about the Israeli military psychology.
Arab attempts to paint a different picture of the IDF have been successful. Many in the Arab world see these well-trained and disciplined troops as amoral. That, however, is far from the truth. These Israeli eighteen and nineteen year olds are told from the first day of national service that they carry the banner of a civilization that puts a premium on life. Their job is to protect and defend. They are given a green light to kill only when other methods to stop an enemy fail.
At a training session for IDF entrants at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, teenagers drafted into military service discuss the roots of war, the conflict in the Middle East, the history of this new nation. But most significantly, they study just-war theory and a moral stance for fighting those who rely on terror methods. Of course, no system is foolproof; occasionally a soldier will act improperly. This, however, is the exception. Israel is in a daily struggle. After all, 250 million Arabs in 22 Arab and Muslim countries want to destroy this nation. But Israeli leaders do not modify their moral code one iota. As the commander of this training center noted, “If we altered our approach, what effect would it have on soldiers when they leave military service?” One fights not only to save a nation, but to save values.