Waiting for disaster

It's only a matter of time before something dreadful happens in Sderot or elsewhere within the range of Gaza's Kassam rockets.

Kassam bloody gd 298.88 (photo credit: Maya Lefkowitz )
Kassam bloody gd 298.88
(photo credit: Maya Lefkowitz )
It takes no uncommon acumen to realize that it's only a matter of time before something dreadful happens in Sderot or elsewhere within the range of Gaza's Kassam rockets. On Monday, a rocket barely missed a kindergarten, though it did slam into a home next door. Fortunately, no one was killed, but the country should remember that ordinary folks cannot acquiesce to having their homes wrecked or their lives put on the line in an ongoing game of Palestinian roulette day after tense day. On Sunday, two people were wounded by a Kassam that exploded alarmingly near a gas station. A day earlier, another Sderot home took a direct hit. Nevertheless, away from the western Negev, there is barely any reaction. Kassam barrages are reported as if they were routine, negligible phenomena. It is eerily reminiscent of the equanimity with which accounts of massive Hizbullah rearmament were greeted after the hasty pullout from Lebanon in 2000 and until the outbreak of last summer's war. This is precisely what Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni complained about soon after the kindergarten near-hit. As she rightfully noted, the government isn't so much as discussing IDF pressure for action against the rocket launchers, no plans are being reviewed and no scenarios examined. For all intents and purposes, it's business as usual, even down to the habitual warning by Defense Minister Amir Peretz (a Sderot resident) that "Israel's restraint isn't unlimited." If a sudden - though hardly unexpected - catastrophe occurs, the concern is that the ministers would be as clueless as on July 12 and as ill-equipped to make intelligent choices. The choice on the southern front is by no means less complicated than what the government faced in the North. Odds indeed are that the unsatisfactory results of the sorrowfully managed campaign versus Hizbullah deter the powers that be from venturing into another military venture. If that's the case, it constitutes yet another adverse consequence of the Second Lebanon War, because ignoring the southern morass won't make it go away. No democracy anywhere would abide the daily rocketing of its noncombatants. Indeed, if this were happening to central Israel, it's reasonable to conjecture that force would be employed to curtail the assault. As is, every passive day exacerbates the problem. Hamas, Islamic Jihad et al are continually strengthened - with Iranian collusion - and their rockets might eventually wreak havoc at greater range. The longer the procrastination, the more difficult and bloody the inevitable counterattack. Gaza is already crisscrossed by tunnel networks that intertwine the terrorists with civilians even more than Hizbullah did in southern Lebanon. Moreover, it is hard to imagine that any viable diplomatic solution exists. These Kassams, it must be stressed, are fired during what the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority dubs a "truce." In the best of times, this would be the thorniest of decisions. When a particularly weak government is challenged by this conundrum, turning a blind eye to the unabated harassment of long-suffering Israelis must appear like the least risky option. In the long run, however, the supposedly safe policy of killing time will surely end up killing many more Israelis, both civilians and soldiers. Those now at the national helm will later be called upon to explain why they preferred to wait and to postpone. Most mystifying is the complete failure to generate pressure on Egypt to much more vigorously combat weapons smuggling from its territory and to at least strive to achieve some kind of partial diplomatic solution. Any government must first and foremost keep in mind its unwritten contract with its citizens, whereby it owes them protection and security. This undertaking is being violated daily along the Gaza border, which Ehud Olmert guaranteed would be uncompromisingly defended after disengagement. That it is not, offers tangible encouragement to the anyway emboldened terror fiefdom. Livni and Olmert may now be busy goading each other, but her criticism must not be dismissed.