Haaretz (Editorial)
June 11, 2008 - 5:30pm

 The prime minister\'s skills as a military leader were tested in the Second Lebanon War and documented in the Winograd Report. The State of Israel paid dearly for the decision to go to war against Hezbollah in July 2006, a price that is still difficult to gage in terms of loss of deterrance. Hezbollah came out of that war politically and militarily strengthened, and the explanation that this was a justified war turned out to be worthless.

Now on the agenda is a justified military action in Gaza. The overabundance of talk about a major operation, one that alternately approaches and recedes depending on the political predicament of members of the government, broadcasts neither strength nor deterrance, but rather indecision. There is no persuasive reason for a military action, except the fact that we cannot accept continued firing on Israel, and Hamas\' continued arming. In contrast, there are a number of reasons for a cease-fire, however temporary.

The main reason is that Hamas can no more be eradicated than could Hezbollah. After all, both these organizations are first and foremost political movements and not only terror groups. Gaza can be laid to waste no more than could Southern Lebanon, and therefore, former National Security Council head Giora Eiland\'s advice to bombard from the air instead of staging a ground operation is as bad for Gaza as it was for Lebanon. Indifference to the firing on the communities around the Gaza Strip is intolerable not only because of the suffering of the people there, but also because the country must not become accustomed to such blows to its sovereignty and citizens. A border means a line of defense for a country\'s inhabitants; otherwise it has no point. To immediately change the situation is the government\'s primary task. Kfar Aza and Sderot do not need to wait for the Kadima primary nor for Morris Talansky\'s cross-examination. People are demanding that their elected leader make decisions. They are not necessarily demanding military action.

When Housing and Construction Minister MK Ze\'ev Boim and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit demand firm military action, the question is, what do they know that Defense Minister Ehud Barak does not know? The latter\'s support for an Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire shows that Israel\'s security will not be fatally compromised if this option is tried. The concern is that Barak will find himself in the opposition after the vote on moving up the elections next week, and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz will become the minister who decides whether we go to war or head toward a calm. That is not calming news.

The concern over a cease-fire with Hamas is understandable: Egypt might not protect the crossings, and Hamas will continue to grow stronger. However, Egypt might also want to prolong the calm and try to ensure that the agreement with Hamas - which puts its prestige to the test - will be kept to the letter.

In any case, calm should be tried and its success judged with the passage of time, rather than trying war and judging its outcome after hundreds of casualties. In the twilight of his term, the prime minister should not attempt to take the country into another military operation. The Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire must not be delayed.


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