While our warriors are on the battlefield fighting, it's difficult to express criticism of any kind. But it is of the utmost importance to know and internalize that the present warfare is not only about rockets pounding our southern cities. Of course, any sovereign nation cannot allow its citizens to be attacked day after day, week after week, year after year, without responding. However, this is just what consecutive governments did not do, beginning not with the Oslo war, otherwise known as the second intifada. Rather in the late 1980s, during the first intifada, when Israelis were stoned, firebombed and shot at, the government's reactions were lukewarm at best. With the outbreak of the second intifada on the eve of Rosh Hashana 2000, the government effectively ignored the attacks on its citizens, most particularly those living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In Hebron, Arabs shot at Jews from the surrounding Abu Sneineh and Harat a-Shech Hills for more than two years, with the only response being "virtual." The IDF was under strict orders not to retake the hills, which would have stopped the shooting. In Gush Katif, thousands upon thousands of mortars shells were fired into Jewish communities. The response to these attacks was not even lukewarm; it was nil. So it came as no surprise when the country's leaders didn't blink an eye when Hamas terrorists, utilizing the very land given to them by the State of Israel, began shelling Sderot. Nor were we shocked when rockets started falling on Ashkelon and Ashdod; such attacks had been predicted prior to the abandonment of Gush Katif. Those of us who envisioned such shellings were at best ignored or called "black prophets"; at worst we were "enemies of peace." Today's battles are not only about self-defense. Much more importantly, they are a return to our national pride, knowing that this is our country, this is our land and we must do, and will do, whatever necessary to protect our citizens and preserve our sovereignty. This, despite the heartache with each and every casualty, knowing that it didn't necessarily have to be this way; we weren't forced to abandon Gush Katif and we didn't have to allow Hamas to rearm itself with missiles which have paralyzed the South. BUT THIS is, perhaps, only a minuscule amount of the damage that's been done. A few brief, analytical questions: 1. Why did Hamas agree, in the first place, to a cease-fire more than six months ago? 2. Why did Hamas, only a few weeks ago, refuse to renew the cease-fire? 3. Why did Hamas, knowing that at some point Israel would have no choice but to respond, fire hundreds of rockets? 4. Why has Hamas refused to accept a cease-fire, despite the massive destruction and loss of life in Gaza? The answer to these questions is, quite possibly, very simple. Our Arab neighbors are not as stupid as we would like to think they are. What is the real existential threat to the State of Israel today? The Iranian nuclear threat. The Iranians, as well as building nuclear reactors, also know how to read calendars. They know that on January 20, George W. Bush will cease to be president of the United States and will be replaced by Barack Obama. They know that Israel would much prefer to "clean up" the Iranian problem prior to the presidential transition, realizing that Bush would be much more likely to give a green light to offensive action than would the new president Obama. How could they prevent a preemptive attack? Iran is the number one supplier of money to Hamas. Iranian leaders told Hamas: "You are going to be sacrificed for a higher good - the destruction of the Jewish state." Hamas was ordered to make a cease-fire and then break it to keep Israel occupied with the south, rather than with the north. Israel would not attempt major armed conflict on two fronts simultaneously. Massive rocket attacks on cities would force Israel's hand, but prevent an attack on Iran. Surely Iran promised Hamas that it would receive full compensation for all damage done. As for the Arabs killed, necessary sacrifices. Besides which, photographs of dead make for excellent propaganda when broadcast on CNN and the BBC. In other words, the current war is nothing more than a great Iranian sting operation, preventing Israel from demolishing its nuclear facilities before January 20, at the cost of a few thousand buildings and a few hundred Arab lives in Gaza. This is perhaps, the real cost of the Gush Katif "disengagement." The writer is spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron.