It is a given that Israel has no good options available to it in dealing with the Hamas leadership of Gaza and its determination to continue raining missiles down on southern Israel.
No one in the Jewish state wishes to reoccupy Gaza in order to stop it from being a launching pad for nonstop terror; the casualties on both sides and the blow to Israel's image would be terrible. But neither can the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert simply allow the current situation to continue, one in which the residents of Sederot have become sitting ducks for Kassam rockets.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in a 2006 coup, wants to keep the pressure up on Olmert by terrorizing as many Israelis as possible. Its goal is to pressure the government into agreeing to a cease-fire, which will only work to strengthen Hamas' standing with the Palestinians. But Olmert does not wish to legitimize a Hamas regime whose entire purpose is to work for Israel's destruction. He also knows that doing so would undermine those whom he and President Bush still claim as Israel's valid peace partners: Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Israel's strategy in dealing with Hamas since it seized Gaza has been to hit back with targeted attacks on terrorists and their leaders. But that has not stopped the bleeding in Sederot.
If Olmert does act decisively, we must expect that Israel will be roundly condemned globally by much of the international media. That's because much of the world still acts as if Palestinian terror, including that which emanates from Gaza, is somehow justified. Indeed, the United Nations still speaks of Gaza as if it is "occupied" territory, even though every last Israeli soldier and settler was unilaterally withdrawn from the area in August 2005.
Last month's Israeli effort to use its economic leverage over Gaza to force Hamas to stop firing was instructive in this regard. Rather than seeing the use of limited sanctions on the rogue Hamas regime as appropriate, most of the world seemed to act as if Israel was committing an act of aggression by choosing to deny those who were firing on its people extra gasoline and power. If that was the reaction to nonviolent attempts to restrain Hamas, what will be said if Israeli forces invade Gaza to stop the Kassams?
Yet what cannot be ignored any longer is the plight of the people of Sederot, as well as the surrounding towns and kibbutzim. Palestinians must understand that if the streets of Sederot cannot be traversed safely, and if its children must spend the nights in shelters, then no one in Gaza should expect to rest easy either.