With Palestinian Kassam missiles continuing to rain down on the southern Israeli city of Sederot, Israel's government is faced with an impossible dilemma.
The notion that terrorists can be allowed to continue shelling Israeli territory with impunity is simply unacceptable. Hamas and the supposedly more moderate Fatah Party are on the verge of civil war, but the Islamists hope to goad Israel into an all-out attack on Gaza so as to both sink any remote chances for peace, as well as to divert Palestinians from their own failures.
Israel would rather not invade Gaza; the casualties would be onerous both to the Israelis and the Palestinians. Nor is there any Israeli desire to reassume the governance of that unfortunate territory. But if the situation there is allowed to continue unimpeded, the Hamas arms buildup may make it even harder to wipe out this nest of terror in the future.
It should be remembered that Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, leaving it solely in Palestinian hands and asking only that it not be used as a launching pad for terror. But even that minimal condition was too much to ask from a political culture steeped in death and run by competing factions of terrorists.
So what can Israel do? It's trying to ratchet up the pressure on the Palestinians via both military and political pressure. But if the Palestinians really want an all-out battle — and that is the only way to interpret the continued attacks on Sederot — then they will get it.
Fortunately, Washington has signaled Jerusalem that it has the right to defend its people against the depredations of terrorists. But we can expect that if Israel is forced to invade Gaza, there will be an international outcry — not against Hamas, which has sought this war, but against Israel's attempt to keep the peace. The Palestinians are counting on their "big lie" approach to winning over international opinion to their cause, and why not? Rejecting peace offers and fomenting terrorism while claiming to be the victim of "Zionist oppression" has always worked for them in the past.
This makes it all the more important for American friends of the Jewish state from across the political spectrum to be willing to speak up and tell the truth. Though Israel's Gaza dilemma may have no attractive answers, the need to defend its people both via arms and advocacy remains more critical than ever.