Haaretz (Editorial)
December 17, 2007 - 1:26pm

The rain of Qassam rockets on Sderot and other communities in the western Negev has developed into a dangerous routine. This is not just because of the harm to people and property, but because of the growing feeling that Israel sees this strip of land's fate as sealed. To repel this feeling, and especially the accusation that the state is doing nothing to defend its citizens, the Israel Defense Forces and government are disseminating a counterthreat. For weeks, they have been saying that a major assault on Gaza is nearing - a huge blow that will end the Qassam plague once and for all. This Israeli threat is also supposed to serve as a forceful response to those who demand Sderot be fortified. It argues that the IDF is not a defensive army, but an offensive one, as Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said in an interview with Channel 1 television.

The "broad, deep operation" has also worked its magic on the media, which has never ceased guessing when it will come. It is thereby pushing the IDF and government to prove their military mettle. So in a short time, the public has become convinced that a major military operation is indeed the appropriate solution.

There is no dispute that a country is obligated to protect its citizens, and sometimes it is even justified to go to war to do so. The condition is that there is no other solution, no alternative to a military conflict. Does Gaza meet this criterion?

Qassam rockets were fired at Israel even when it controlled Gaza completely. The smuggling of arms and explosives took place under its nose even when IDF patrols controlled the Philadelphi route on the Gaza-Egypt border. The claim that the Qassam attacks began only after the withdrawal from Gaza has no basis. Nor has Israel refrained from using its military might to try to stop attacks. A temporary reoccupation of northern Gaza, targeted killings, aerial bombings, penetrations into Gaza, total closures, sealing the border crossings - all these are part of a military repertoire aimed at thwarting attacks on Israeli soil. In other words, the claim that the IDF has been sitting on its hands is also false. The military option is not a plan that has been gathering dust on the shelf; it has been extensively employed - and has failed. A wider war does not promise anything better.

Therefore, it would be better to reexamine the alternative. Hamas understands that Qassam rockets cannot destroy the State of Israel, but they can certainly block diplomatic progress - because stopping the fire is Israel's first and most important demand of the Palestinian Authority, and without this, there will be no negotiations. What is needed is a courageous Palestinian stance to spur renewed cooperation between Fatah and Hamas, and the formation of a new Palestinian national unity government. Such a joint leadership would be able to propose a real cease-fire and institute civilian cooperation. Israel should not fear such a development - especially when the military option appears dubious.


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