On Thursday it happened, conclusively - Operation Cast Lead turned insane. Attacking any densely populated city is a serious act at any time, but when Israel's international legitimacy is being ground to dust, such an attack is nothing but madness.

Shelling a United Nations facility is something not to be done at any time, but doing it on the day when the UN secretary general is visiting Jerusalem is beyond lunacy. The level of pressure the Israel Defense Forces has been exerting on Gaza may be squeezing Hamas, but it is destroying Israel. Destroying its soul and its image. Destroying it on world television screens, in the living rooms of the international community and most importantly, in Obama's America.

Israel is not Russia and Gaza is not Chechnya. Israel cannot deal with its enemies the way belligerent superpowers deal with theirs. Wars must be just and proportional.

Without being just, Israel cannot triumph on the battlefield. Without a sound moral foundation any Israeli victory is Pyrrhic.

Twenty-one days ago the campaign against Hamas was balanced and right. About a week ago it started slipping and in the last few days it has crossed every line. True, Hamas is in distress, its leaders are being killed, its prestige is dwindling. But this cannot change the fact that what began as a vital, calculated military operation has become a riotous rampage in a populated area. At any given moment the rampage could end in disaster.

The prime minister has apparently decided to act like some kind of Putin. If he ended his first war with no clear conclusion, he will end his second one with a scorched earth. But one should also ask, where is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is supposed to "look the truth in the eye" in his election campaign? And where is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who claims to have the courage to change things?

After two weeks of serving their state, they are now in cahoots with licentious military moves.

In a few days the fire will cease and the fog will disperse, revealing the horror. Hamas will be crushed, but pictures of outrageous destruction and killing will flood the world. Beirut's "Waltz with Bashir" will pale by comparison to Gaza's waltz with Olmert.

Then we'll discover that we will not be paying the price of the past week's belligerent escapade only in Obama's America. We will be paying it with the damaged souls of our sons and daughters.