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"He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will
Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate":
Contemporary Lessons from an Ancient Midrash

Eliav Shochetman
Policy Paper No. 124, 2001


The well-known folk-saying, "One who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate", has been employed to criticize the government for not dealing harshly with the cruel terrorist organizations but rather treating them forgivingly, which engenders cruelty to the general public.

In its primary context, this adage has a totally different meaning. Originally, this saying was directed towards King Saul, who did not properly fulfill the Torah's commandment to battle against Amalek until its liquidation. In the above adage, our Sages attempt to convey that a King may not place humanitarian considerations above the law, as the obligation to obey is incumbent upon the government just like anyone else, and the government is not permitted to refrain from fulfilling its obligations for any reason.

The Law of the State of Israel mandates to combat terrorism until its demise. The government's avoidance of waging an all-out war against terrorism for political reasons is a repetition of King Saul's mistake - a mistake which cost him his throne and his kingdom.

The elected Prime Minister must learn the lessons of the rich historical experience of the Jewish people in the realm of war against those who threaten it with extinction and conduct peace talks only with those among the Arabs residing in the Land of Israel who are truly willing to recognize the existence of the State of Israel. As to all those who want to continue the battle against Israel, it is incumbent upon us - including, and above all, the Government and Prime Minister - to obey the law and wage war against them until their demise. This is a precondition for the Prime Minster to have any prospect of extricating the State from the difficult situation in which it finds itself, since the inception of the Oslo "peace process" in 1993. 

For the complete article (in English), click here.