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Israel on the front lines of the war on terror
By GILAD ERDAN
11/20/2012
We don’t want to stage a ground invasion of Gaza and continue the war in the South. But if we have to enter Gaza to protect the citizens of Israel, that’s what we’ll do.
 
For years, the city of Ashkelon – my birthplace – has been under terrorist fire. This week I went to visit my family and friends in the city, coping heroically and stoically with the unceasing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist organizations on innocent civilians.

During my visit, I found myself in the absurd position of hearing a Color Red Alert siren in a place in which there was no bomb shelter. I was forced to lie down on the floor and cover my head. For a moment I experienced the surreal situation hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens find themselves in on a daily basis.

Try to imagine Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, walking around his city when suddenly there is a rain of rockets. Imagine for a moment what would happen if a terrorist organization launched missiles at Chicago, St. Petersburg, Manchester or Marseille.

Hamas has for years been firing rockets and mortar shells indiscriminately at civilians – men, women, children and the elderly, with the sole intent to kill, wound and destroy. This despite the fact that Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, evacuating dozens of flourishing Jewish settlements. And despite the fact that Israel continues to provide the Palestinians with water, electricity and humanitarian aid.

These are not easy days for the citizens of Israel. Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired more than 1,000 projectiles at Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense began last Wednesday. Many cities and towns, including Sderot, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi, Ashdod, Ashkelon and even Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are under fire.

Over a million and a half people have become targets, and unfortunately some have been killed and dozens have been wounded or made homeless.

We, the government of Israel, decided: No more! We won’t accept a situation in which Israeli citizens live in fear and terror. We will not accept as routine a situation in which children in the South can’t go to schools or kindergartens.

We launched Operation Pillar of Defense determined to put an end to the routine threat on the lives of our citizens.

We don’t want to stage a ground invasion of Gaza and continue the war in the South. But if we have to enter Gaza to protect the citizens of Israel, that’s what we’ll do.

From our experience, we know that you can’t reach agreements with terrorist organizations without destroying their capabilities and creating deterrence.

The citizens of Israel, as always in moments like this, stand together with determination behind their leadership and the IDF. Unlike Hamas, which wants to harm civilians, the IDF seeks to harm only terrorists in the areas from which rockets are fired at Israel.

The Israel Air Force has carried out more than 1,400 attacks on Gaza, in a surgical, pinpoint and accurate fashion.

This is a mission that’s almost impossible, given the fact that terrorists hide in and fire from populated areas, schools and hospitals.

There are, however, many who see the pictures from Gaza and automatically criticize Israel and the IDF, instead of placing the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Hamas and the terrorist organizations. Many don’t understand that Israel’s southern cities are the international front line in the battle between democracy and fundamentalist terror, of the struggle for human rights, freedom and democracy.

This is what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when I welcomed him, asking him to put the burden of blame and pressure on Hamas. As someone who has been to Sderot in the past and seen the suffering of the residents of the South with his own eyes, I said, you must understand that the government of Israel cannot compromise with the security of its citizens.

I stressed that without guarantees from the international community, Israel will not stop its military operation, because people will justifiably ask what prevents the rocket fire from starting again.

No one can be silent in the face of such a reality, and the Western world must continue to support Israel’s right of self-defense in its war against terror. Whoever is silent today cannot complain when the terror reaches them.

While the front lines of the war on terror are to be found in Israel’s southern cities, the home front battle is being fought on the Internet, in hasbara and public opinion across the world. Today, anyone with a keyboard and a mouse can contribute to our campaign. It is extremely important that Israel’s positions be supported on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other websites.

We need to unite the citizens of the free world against the terrorist organizations violating our freedom. Only when we stand together with determination, militarily and morally, will we be able to win the war and live in a better world.

The writer is minister for environmental protection and a Likud MK.
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