The Kassam rocket has never been more powerful than it is at this exact moment. It's no more accurate nor explosive than in the past, but with Israel's having suspended retaliatory artillery fire in the wake of the obliteration of almost an entire family on a Gaza beach, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are able to fire the rockets unfettered on the poor citizens of Sderot. The situation has many Israelis seething for a response.
One of them is MK Avigdor Lieberman. He has called for a heightened level of retaliation in which the price of each Kassam becomes so high that firing them is no longer worthwhile. Lieberman's logic is essentially economic: Increase the price, and the demand will go down.
The only trouble with it is that terrorism isn't motivated by the laws of the free market.
This kind of logic ignores two basic facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, there is a large number of Palestinians willing to give their lives for the continuation of terror against Israel. Not just to risk their lives, but knowingly give them.
Any logic that imagines that a bigger price tag on the use of violence will decrease its demand is ridiculous. The Palestinians are willing to pay whatever it takes.
Second, drastic responses don't work in our conflict. The second intifada saw several massive military incursions into the Gaza Strip and West Bank (Defensive Shield, Days of Awe, Colorful Journey, etc.) that failed to produce long-term reductions in violence. We may have temporarily crippled the terror groups, but all of them invariably grew back stronger than ever.
Drastic force is nothing new and has never worked against the Palestinians. The last thing we need is a headlong dive into escalation that we know is only temporarily effective, at best.
LIEBERMAN DOESN'T understand this, most likely because he doesn't understand why the Kassams are being fired in the first place.
The Palestinians believe they are fighting against oppression and occupation, that they are fighting for their rights. That kind of commitment can't be snuffed out by turning the Northern Gaza Strip into a buffer zone and tightening our grip over the Palestinians' daily lives.
Those kinds of tactics will only reinforce the perception of oppression and motivate continued violence.
Yes, the Palestinians are engaging in terrorism and, yes, we have the right to defend ourselves. But defending ourselves from Kassam rockets shouldn't come at the price of creating suicide bombers. Different solutions are called for, solutions that reward the Palestinians for choosing peaceful means.
WHAT SHOULD be done? At this moment Ehud Olmert should do his utmost to bring us back from the brink of renewed violence. He should make a direct appeal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to restore calm and safeguard impending negotiations. He should order the immediate cessation of targeted assassinations (except for ticking bombs). It may not be our turn for concessions, but we can expect neither restraint nor compromise if we fail to show either.
If Israel wants to avoid a third intifada, then we're going to have to take the lead and renew the cease-fire, this time bilaterally.
Renewed violence is not in Hamas's interest either, and with the help of a third party's good offices (e.g. Turkey or Russia), a cease-fire could be reached. Not because we are weak and not because we are scared, but because it is in our best interests.
The only effective solution against the Kassam rocket is diffusing it before it's fired.
The writer, a graduate student, researches peacekeeping operations at the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.