Stop the Kassams now

Israel must act not only against lower-level terrorists, but demonstrate that the Hamas leadership will be held accountable as well.

kassam sderot 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
kassam sderot 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
For months, Kassam rockets have been falling on Sderot and elsewhere in the western Negev, even as far inside Israel as Ashkelon, where they fell again yesterday. One of the rockets fired from Gaza at Sderot Wednesday killed Fatima Slutsker, 57, and seriously wounded Maor Peretz, 24. Peretz, a bodyguard for Defense Minister Amir Peretz, lost both of his legs. Islamic Jihad and Hamas both took responsibility for the attack. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum openly justified the deliberate targetting of Israeli civilians, claiming: "The occupation hasn't stopped attacking Palestinians before or after Beit Hanun, so we say resistance is a right of the Palestinians." Is it really necessary to point out that Israel withdrew from Gaza over a year ago so that there were no Israelis to "resist"? Or that Israel has no interest or desire to be militarily involved in Gaza except to stop the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens? Hamas has once again proven that it is a terrorist organization and proud of it, talks of a Palestinian "unity government" notwithstanding. The question is how Israel will effectively respond to this reality. After yesterday's deadly attack on Sderot, Peretz claimed that "terror organizations will pay a heavy price." Indeed, the IDF has been exacting a heavy price from these organizations in operations of varying scope over the last few months. Yet it is also inescapably true, as Sderot residents have been saying for some time, that if missiles were falling on Tel Aviv or Jerusalem with such frequency, Israel would be acting differently. In practice, Israel has been tolerating these attacks so long as they do not produce casualties. This situation is untenable for obvious reasons. First, as we saw yesterday, Kassams do produce casualties. How can we wait for more of our citizens to die before taking effective action? Second, even when there are "no casualties," allowing such a large section of the country to remain under fire week after week is also unacceptable. Thousands of children, not to mention adults, are being traumatized by the constant sirens and rocket salvoes. In a particularly cruel twist, the small trauma center in Sderot treating these children itself has no bomb shelter, so when the sirens go off the children are told to stand near the walls. Many schools are also unprotected. But turning the targeted areas into a giant bomb shelter is not the solution either: the attacks must be stopped. Diplomatically, it is time for our prime minister to stop playing into the notion that the problem is the lack of an Israeli initiative. Our government should be demanding an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority for openly launching terrorist attacks against Israel. Even if the UN does not support us, we should at least stand up for ourselves in the international arena. Israel must act not only directly against lower-level terrorists, but through its actions demonstrate that the Hamas leadership will be held accountable as well. Hamas is not just harboring a terrorist organization, it is a terrorist organization. It is also critical that Israel sound the alarm regarding Egypt's refusal to take effective measures against rampant arms smuggling over its border into Gaza. Token steps are not enough. The US and Israel should tell Egypt that if Cairo acts like Damascus and allows Gaza to become southern Lebanon, then Egypt risks being treated like Syria; the US has immense leverage here, in terms of military assistance. As we noted in this space yesterday, Hizbullah is already rearming, which means that Lebanon and Syria are already rendering UN Security Council Resolution 1701 - an achievement for which many Israeli soldiers died - into a dead letter. Our military and civilian leadership needs to prove that it has learned the most glaring lesson of the recent Lebanon war: The longer we bury our heads in the sand while terrorist enemies build massive arsenals on our borders, the more likely war becomes and the more costly it will be. Recent resignations and demands for more within the IDF are not driven by spite or a public vendetta. The issue is not punishment for the last war, but whether our current leadership is capable of preventing and, if all else fails, fighting, the next war.