Israel's founding fathers took pride in proclaiming that the Jewish state would represent a safe haven and ensure that those who shed innocent Jewish blood would pay a bitter price. Were they aware how those who inherited their leadership mantles had acquiesced to a return to Jewish powerlessness, they would turn over in their graves.
In the wake of the recent terrible provocations, the IDF has been obliged to temporarily reenter Gaza. It is tragic and outrageous that we had to reach this point. Had we taken resolute action when the Kassams were first being fired into Israel instead of undermining our credibility by endlessly making empty threats, the terrorists would never have had the chutzpah to behave as they did.
Despite the dramatic erosion of security since prime minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement was implemented, our leaders and have yet to bite the bullet.
The scenario we are experiencing was predictable, and alternative options should have been on the table a long time ago. Yet even now our leaders remain hesitant, make contradictory statements, squabble among themselves and clearly lack a strategic plan. Instead of being assertive, they give the appearance of being apologetic and of being hostage to the Americans, who under such circumstances must try to restrain us.
THE EXTENT to which the IDF has been conditioned to operate under terms of engagement that dramatically inhibit its ability to strike back at terrorists was exemplified by OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy, who told the Jerusalem Post:"If we know that a terrorist who is in the midst of firing a Kassam aimed to kill, is holding his son's hand, we will not fire."
If that is the approach of the IDF, we have truly lost the plot. To hold back from eliminating a terrorist directly engaged in a potentially lethal act of terror directed against civilians is not a manifestation of morality or humanity. It reflects utter confusion and the application of false values which violate the primary obligation of a government to defend the lives of its citizens. It means we are adopting the flawed morality of the bleeding hearts who consider that the well-being of human shields deliberately positioned to defend those seeking to kill us warrants a higher priority than the life and limb of our own citizens.
THE REALITY is that Israel implements a more humane approach to warfare and the protection of non-combatants than any other democratic country. Our military cemeteries testify to the young Israelis who died because of our reluctance to maximize the firepower of the IDF out of concern for the well-being of innocent civilians.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stands at the crossroads. This is his moment of truth, his litmus test of his leadership. No one envies the difficult decisions that the burden of office imposes on him.
Olmert should set aside the controversies relating to convergence and uprooting settlements and call on Israelis to unite and confront the barbarians at the gate. We can revert to our internal disputes after we have secured the safety of the nation.
The Palestinians must be made to realize that having now crossed all red lines, our patience has been exhausted and they will now be obliged to pay the consequences for their murderous acts. Olmert must tell the world that despite Israeli concern about possible civilian casualties, as of now all human shields and those in proximity to terrorists initiating attacks against us are at risk. The responsibility for casualties, even innocent bystanders, will rest entirely with the terrorists and the Palestinian leaders who enable them to carry out their barbaric acts. And if by doing this we will create a new wave of international anti-Israeli condemnation, so be it.
The time has come to soberly recognize that what is now at stake is the very future of the state. If the premier fails to demonstrate that we are resolved to utilize maximum deterrent power, our future prospects are grim. We will see more rockets transforming Sderot into a ghost town and other Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, will soon also be targeted. Kidnappings and murders openly sanctioned by the Hamas government will become the order of the day. Terrorists are already boasting that they will soon also be launching chemical and biological weapons against us.
Reluctance to take tough responses will strengthen Hamas and other radicals in their belief that if they maintain the course and continue the terror, their oft-stated intention to wear us down in stages by increasingly eroding the quality of our lives will ultimately succeed.
THE PRIME minister and his cabinet must stop making grandiose threats. Olmert should now regard Winston Churchill rather than Neville Chamberlain as a role model. If the terror onslaughts against our civilians continue, the policies of restraint and appeasement must be substituted by a clear instruction to the IDF to maximize targeted assassinations and ensure that the heads of the snake - the Hamas leaders who orchestrate the evil - are primary targets. When Moshe Ya'alon was IDF chief of General Staff, he initiated this process and very soon afterward, terrified Hamas leaders were begging for a truce.
The message to the Palestinians is simple: All who orchestrate or partake in the killing of Israelis will ultimately themselves be killed. Despite all the rhetoric about sanctifying shahids and the prospects of virgins in heaven, the vast majority of Hamas activists and other terrorists prefer to dispatch others to "paradise" rather than transform themselves into martyrs.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader.