(photo credit: AP)
Before dawn on Tuesday morning, a Palestinian Kassam rocket slammed into the IDF's Zikim training base, wounding 69 soldiers, three seriously and one critically. The rocket hit an empty tent, but came very close to causing many fatalities.
The same, of course, can be said of the missiles that have been striking Sderot, which often barely miss schools full of children. We are not only allowing unprovoked and unacceptable attacks on our sovereign territory, we are waiting for our luck to run out, and for many of our citizens, soldiers or civilians, to be killed.
The rush, after every attack, to demand that military bases and even whole towns be physically hardened to withstand rocket barrages misses the point. There is certainly no place for parents of soldiers to demonstrate outside the stricken base and verbally abuse IDF commanders. The address is not such officers, but our government, which simply throws up its hands on the matter and refuses to take basic steps to defend the country.
It is not true, as some analysts argue and the government would have us believe, that nothing can be done. Everyone knows that a whole host of actions would be taken if, as is inevitable at this rate, a Kassam attack produces multiple fatalities. The time to take those actions is now, not after people have paid with their lives for government indifference.
Yet, contrary to what some opposition politicians are saying, the list of steps does not begin with a massive ground operation into Gaza. Such an action, along the lines of Operation Defensive Shield in Judea and Samaria in 2002, would be temporarily effective at the cost of significant IDF casualties. This is not yet warranted, because it would be like trying to clean up spilled water without first turning off the faucet.
The faucet is the continuous flow of terrorists and weaponry in and out of Gaza over the Egyptian border. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has never demanded that Egypt stop this flow, either by digging a moat or by policing the border at least as effectively as Jordan guards its border with Israel.
Egypt has paid no diplomatic or financial price for its negligence, which even if not deliberate, produces the same result as Syria's support for Hizbullah across its border with Lebanon. Furthermore, the US and Israel continue to treat Egypt as a mediator and a regional player in good standing, as if nothing is wrong.
While the US should not be doing this, we can hardly expect America to be more exercised about Egypt's allowing a massive weapons buildup in Hamastan than Israel.
In the best case, shutting off the weapons flow to Hamas will take time. Meanwhile, Israel must use military means to impose a price on the Hamas regime, which not only permitted Tuesday's attack but openly celebrated it as a "victory from God."
It is not enough to go after the individual rocket-launchers, or even to clear out a five-kilometer-deep area in the northern Gaza Strip, as former defense minister Moshe Arens has advocated. Israel must make clear that it holds Hamas responsible for the attacks it facilitates and supports.
In addition, Israel should immediate take actions such as those hinted at by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Deputy Premier Haim Ramon, who reportedly told the French foreign minister that Israel would be forced to stop its supply of electricity and other services to Gaza if the attacks continued.
We would ask, "What is the government waiting for," but the answer is clear and chilling: an attack that causes massive casualties.
For too long, Israel has unilaterally acquiesced to an unwritten rule: We have no right to respond "disproportionately," with sufficient force or effect to deter attacks on our citizens. We fret about being branded for imposing "collective punishment" by cutting off electricity to Gaza, even for an hour, when our citizens are subject to the collective capital punishment of Hamas missiles.
But Israel must not be deterred from protecting the lives of its people by theoretical international pressure. Such "pressure" has in any case lost all legitimacy, since the UN Security Council continues to fail to lift a finger to condemn, let alone impose sanctions against, the attacks against Israel. Israel must defend itself; if we do not, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
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