Haaretz (Editorial)
January 8, 2008 - 6:16pm

It is illogical to wait for the day a rocket falls on a kindergarten in Sderot and claims many victims. Every Qassam rocket is a strike on a kindergarten avoided by chance, and every rocket that falls in Israeli territory is a strike against the sovereignty of the state. When the fortification of Sderot against rockets becomes the fortification of Ashkelon against rockets, the lack of logic in the tactic of fortification becomes clear. If the border with Gaza is not considered a border for all intents and purposes and Israel does not relate seriously to firing across the border at its citizens, it will be impossible to define a border in the east or to expect quiet along any other border.

The decisions to withdraw from both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip came with promises to protect Israel's borders by force if its sovereignty were violated. This is not just Sderot residents' problem, and it is not fitting for Sderot residents to back a major military operation while Tel Aviv residents would rather make do with a small one; the border is the same border, and it is the sovereignty of all Israeli citizens that is being violated.

The public discourse about the need for a large-scale military operation in Gaza contributes nothing. A responsible government should not operate based on public opinion in matters about which the public lacks the necessary information to form an opinion. The government, not the public, has the responsibility of deciding what action to take, how strong an enemy the Israel Defense Forces is likely to face in the future if it does not carry out a large-scale operation now, and what the chances are that the Palestinians themselves will stop the rocket fire by Hamas and other organizations operating under its aegis. Given that Hamas declares openly that it will never agree to reach a political accord with Israel, but only tactical accords on temporary truces, there appears to be no choice but to respond to Qassam fire with a military operation, the extent and timing of which should be determined by the government and IDF.

A harsh response to Hamas in Gaza and to terrorists in the West Bank should go along with significant diplomatic moves vis-a-vis the Palestinian government. Without goodwill toward Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, there is no logic in using military force against Hamas and no chance of moving the Palestinian public in the direction of a peace agreement. It currently seems that Ehud Olmert's government is strong only when it comes to talking about peace, holding meetings, making trips and visits and shaking hands. When it comes to the settlers, it is noteworthy for cowardice.

The excuses are abundantly familiar: waiting for the Winograd report, concern that Avigdor Lieberman will leave the coalition, the knowledge that Benjamin Netanyahu is riding high in opinion polls and the fear of using force against residents of the outposts. These concerns add up to a lack of action that does not justify the government's continued existence, even if its intentions are good.

If this is the way things stand, even a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush is no more than the appearance of diplomatic activity. Military action against Hamas has no chance of succeeding if the Palestinians do not see light at the end of the diplomatic tunnel. It seems that the prime minister is moving hesitantly between the carrot and the stick, and is unable to be effective with either one.


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