kassam cell mounting rockets 248 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
On Friday, a Hamas spokesman made Israel the following proposal: You keep the stream of humanitarian aid and supplies flowing into Gaza and we will keep launching rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.
It was an offer Israel had little choice but to refuse.
For weeks Israel has been imploring Hamas to stop shooting across the border, to stop tunneling in preparation for the next round of violence, and to allow our farmers to tend their fields. The Islamists responded that they were not afraid of the IDF and that they reserved the right to resist "the occupation" - meaning the existence of a Jewish state. They brazenly told Israel to get used to the idea that no amount of humanitarian gestures would stem their behavior.
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Israel finally told Hamas that it would not be bled, slowly, to death. Thanks to excellent intelligence and superb training, a haughty enemy was caught off-guard. Targets up and down the Strip were hit and large numbers of Hamas personnel including senior military figures were killed. Key facilities were turned into rubble; well-camouflaged equipment was destroyed.
In launching "Operation Cast Lead," Defense Minister Ehud Barak, declared, "There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting." And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, flanked by Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said that Israel had done everything possible to avoid this escalation, but that its entreaties for quiet had been met with disdain.
The IDF's mission is not to bring down the Hamas regime, but to bring quiet to the South. In a sense we are asking Hamas to stop being Hamas. The Islamists need to decide whether they want to go down in flames or are prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with control over the Strip. They may give Israel no choice but to topple their administration.
To their credit, Israeli decision makers are avoiding the kind of bombastic rhetoric all of us came to regret in the course of the Second Lebanon War and its aftermath. Now, what ordinary Israelis demand is that their government deliver, as promised, quiet to the South. We do not expect this operation to be fast or easy. We do expect it to succeed.
Israelis must unite and be vigilant. Regrettably, we've already seen rioting among some east Jerusalem Palestinians. The possibility of disturbances among our Arab citizens cannot be discounted. Hamas rockets may reach targets heretofore thought to be beyond enemy range; their threats to launch suicide attacks must be taken with utmost seriousness. And Diaspora Jews also need be on alert.
ON A quiet post-Christmas weekend, the events in Gaza have captured world attention. From an unsympathetic foreign media, we are already hearing complaints that Israel's retaliation is "disproportionate" and a form of "collective punishment." That over 200 Palestinians have been killed compared to only one Israeli leads some journalists to conclude that Israel is inherently in the wrong. One British news anchor wondered why her government had not already demanded that Israel halt its operation. There was a grudging understanding that Hamas uses Palestinian non-combatants as human shields, along with an unreasonable demand that Israel magically find a way not to harm any of them.
The formula for purchasing the affection of those who suffer from moral relativism is sickeningly clear: if one Jew is killed, we get very little piety. If, heaven forbid, an Israeli kindergarten was to take a direct hit - Israel might, temporarily, gain the sympathy of news anchors from Paris to London to Madrid.
At that price we would rather forgo their sympathy.
Nevertheless, we expect our diplomats to work 24/7 to make Israel's case to the international community. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has begun that process. In an English-language address she said, "Enough is enough" - Israel would not continue to absorb rockets, mortars and bullets without retaliating.
At this newspaper, we wonder how an international community that can't bring itself to explicitly support Israel's operation against the most intransigent of Muslim fanatics expects to play a positive role in facilitating peace in this region.
Hamas must be stopped. And the civilized world must help stop it.