The goal is not to take out the rockets, but to make Hamas afraid to launch them.
By HERB KEINON
Over the last few days, the Hebrew newspapers have taken to printing maps of areas that could be reached by missiles from Gaza on their front pages.
The purpose of these maps is unclear; is it to warn, to educate or to scare?
Either way, the maps miss the mark, for - as most everyone in this country understands inherently - most of Israel can be hit by missiles from somewhere, either from Gaza in the south, or from Lebanon, Syria and even Iran in the north and east. Israel can be hit by Hamas' short-range Kassams, Hizbullah's mid-range Katyushas, or Syria and Iran's long-range ballistic missiles.
In short, we are all petty much inside the missile range of our enemies.
Then why don't they strike? Why aren't the missiles falling everywhere, at all times, like they've been doing in the communities around Gaza for the last eight years?
It's obviously not because Hizbullah or Syria have turned into Lovers of Zion, and it's not because they can't or don't have the ability to strike. They don't fire because they don't want to, because they realize that if they did, they would pay an unbearable price.
Hizbullah has taken a strategic decision that - at least for now - it isn't in its interest to attack Israel. The Second Lebanon War, with all its problems, did deliver a mighty blow to Hizbullah and Lebanon, resulting in some 30 months of quiet in the north. Hizbullah is rearming, yet quiet prevails.
Moreover, the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat quoted a Hizbullah source Sunday as saying his organization would not join Hamas and open a second front in the current fighting because it was not interested in a conflict with Israel at this time. In other words, it was concerned about the Israeli reaction.
An attempt to duplicate that equation in the south is what lies behind Operation Cast Lead. The goal isn't to take out all the rockets and missiles in the Gaza Strip - at this point a seemingly impossible task - but rather to uproot Hamas's will to launch those missiles and rockets by smacking the organization so hard it will think innumerable times before returning to its old modus operandi.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been careful in setting modest goals for the operation - there is no grandiose talk of destroying Hamas, or even destroying their ability to strike at Israel.
They talk rather of changing the security environment in the south, and the way they want to do this isn't by destroying all the missile launchers in Gaza, but rather by showing Hamas the price it has to pay to use them.
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