Translated from the Hebrew and posted by Ron Skolnik
The Israeli government is responsible for what is occurring in the western Negev. Sderot and many other communities in the area are under the daily threat of Qassam rockets, and the only answer being offered for this problem are solidarity visits by VIPs who get their pictures taken and leave: This situation cannot go on.
The serious injury caused to the two brothers [in Sderot on February 9] proves that miracles aren’t forever. We must do something that will change the status quo. Based on the understanding that none of the alternatives is ideal, the question is: What is the preferred mode of operation?
The right thing would be to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would include Gaza. We were supposed to reach one on May 4, 1999, and we missed the opportunity. The agreement by Sharon, and Olmert after him, to accept an American dictate that was based on a naïve conception of democratization, and allow Hamas to take part in the Palestinian elections was a very bad mistake. The Hamas victory was a vindication for those who said that if we didn’t speak with the PLO, we would get something worse. The Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 made the chance of reaching a peace that would include Gaza a more distant prospect.
A major operation in Gaza will not stop the Qassams, and will exact casualties on both sides. That’s the reason that neither the army nor the government is inclined towards such an operation. Reducing the supply of electricity, fuel and basic commodities is essentially a collective punishment that will not generate pressure on the Hamas government to bring about a cessation of the Qassams. Instead, it will increase hostility towards Israel and the desire for vengeance. It will unify the Palestinian ranks. It will harm Israel’s image. And it will bring about, in one way or another, a breaching of the siege – either in the direction of Israel or the direction of Egypt. The dream of Egypt spreading its wings over the Gaza Strip and letting us off the hook is a pipedream. Egypt has never wanted this, and it will do its utmost so that this doesn’t happen now.
Hamas – out of its own interests – wants to reach a cease-fire with Israel. This is our interest as well. This can be accomplished by means of Egypt, just as we are conducting negotiations via Egypt for the release of Gilad Shalit. Hamas might be trying to gain time, but Israel also needs time to develop an effective anti-rocket defense. If Hamas fully abides by the cease-fire and prevents the firing of Qassams and mortars, and other attacks against Israel, we will refrain from entering the Strip and from targeted preventive operations. If Hamas’ word proves not to be good, we will be released from our obligations. It’s a small price to pay, and it offers a greater chance of achieving calm than any other option.