Israel should turn its troops, tanks and fighter planes around and get them out of Gaza right now. At the same time, it should try to negotiate a truce with Hamas based on this principle: They stop firing rockets at Israel in return for our lifting of the siege on Gaza. This is the deal Hamas offered us before we started Operation Cast Lead, and we should have taken it then and seen how it had gone before resorting to military force. Still, against all the death and suffering this war has brought to innocent people, against all the destruction and hatred and potential for catastrophe it's created, the war has given us one important benefit: Hamas's fighting and terror machine has been hurt substantially. These losses, along with the horrible devastation to Gazan civilians and their country, might make Hamas more willing to not only propose, but also to honor a truce that gave freedom to Gaza and security to Israel. That would be the greatest possible benefit from this war - both to Israel and to Gaza's people. It might actually reverse this disastrous course we're all on and, in a couple of weeks, help a new American president send some real "hope" and "change" our way. The alternative is to wait for a cease-fire on Israel's terms that essentially mean Hamas's surrender, which isn't going to come; or send the IDF into the heart of Gaza's refugee camps, which will result in a lot more dead and wounded Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. It may also bring Hizbullah or somebody else into the war. It may also cause a rise in terror - here and/or abroad. Lastly, if Gilad Schalit is still alive, an Israeli escalation may also get him killed, either intentionally or accidentally. IN THE end, Hamas, whatever's left of it, will still claim victory. It will still be able to rebuild its ranks and arsenal. And the best cease-fire we will be able to get will still be based on this principle: No more rockets on Israel, no more siege on Gaza. Unfortunately, the government says it won't settle for anything less than Hamas's effective disarmament, which would require Egypt to stop the arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza. But yesterday Yediot Aharonot reported that Egypt had "flatly rejected" this demand, which the US is presenting on Israel's behalf, because it didn't want to catch all the blame if the smuggling continued. (Since we're all agreed now that Egypt views Hamas as a threat, can we also agree that Egypt really has been trying to stop the weapons smuggling, and that its failure to stop all of it cannot be explained by President Hosni Mubarak's wish to see Hamas killing Jews?) I, too, would like Hamas to disappear and, failing that, I, too, would like it to disarm, but I really don't expect Hamas to oblige, and neither should the government or the public. We should not send our soldiers into the refugee camps to keep fighting while we wait for Hamas's leaders to agree that Israel has a right to bear arms but they don't. Neither should we wait for Hamas to agree not to shoot at Israeli soldiers while those soldiers are sitting on Gazan territory. IT'S NOT going to happen. That's not what Hamas is about. Remember - they don't care about human life, theirs or anybody else's, they're just waiting for those 72 virgins in heaven, right? What makes anyone think they will stop shooting and agree not only to stop firing rockets at the South, but to demilitarize entirely - and all while the IDF is inside Gaza? Yet this is what the Israeli government demands in return for an end to Operation Cast Lead. And if this demand isn't met, then it's into the refugee camps for our troops. Some people point to Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and say that if it worked then, why can't it work now? They forget that while the IDF's invasion of West Bank refugee camps marked the beginning of the end of the intifada, Operation Defensive Shield, in effect, never ended. We've still got thousands of soldiers stationed all over the West Bank, keeping a lid on both Palestinian terror and Palestinian civilian life. Do we want to try that in Gaza? Again? I don't think so. But that's the only way Israel can conceivably attain its goal of not just a cease-fire with Gaza, but the demilitarization of Gaza. I think there's a better way. My model is the cease-fire that's taken hold in the 2 1â„2 years since the Second Lebanon War. This cease-fire leaves Lebanon and Israel equally free to do whatever they want - including build up their arsenals - but it also leaves Hizbullah, remembering as it does what happened the last time it attacked Israel, deterred from doingso again. If Israel doesn't stop fighting before January 20, I believe that on that day, new President Barack Obama will demand that Israel call a halt to Operation Cast Lead and seek a freedom-for-security deal with Gaza. The entire world will support him, and Israel will end the war on those terms. So why in God's name not do it now?