The escalation in the south contains all the components that allow a prime minister to do what he pleases without significant opposition. Continued rocket fire on Israel's cities, a criminal act that should be unequivocably denounced, comes at a heavy cost to the residents of the south, in lives and property. It disrupts normal life in the country and increases pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rain down destruction on Gaza that will restore "deterrence" and "change the equation."
The pressure comes not only from the right, which traditionally prefers aggressive solutions, or from the inner cabinet or forum of eight senior ministers, whose members mostly represent aggressive worldviews. Even the main opposition party, Kadima, which is supposed to act as a brake and barrier between the government and decisions that might turn out to be Pyrrhic victories, is urging Netanyahu to take advantage of Israel's military superiority over Hamas and the other organizations that have claimed responsibility for the rockets.
The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Kadima lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, said yesterday morning: "The state must expand its actions vis-a-vis Hamas and bring down infrastructures," while Kadima's deputy chairman, MK Yohanan Plesner, pledged that "the committee will back any move the government makes to restore deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and the terror organizations."
For her part, Kadima chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni went even further. She announced on Friday that she would back the Netanyahu government if it undertook a major operation. "Terror must be fought with force," she said.
The fact that no significant political entity stands between Netanyahu and a reenactment of the violent military operation of 2008, Operation Cast Lead, shows that Kadima, which should be leading the opposition, is not being true to its function. But more importantly, it exposes a political vacuum that lays all responsibility at the doorstep of one person.
Precisely because all options are open to him, and despite his tendency to buckle under to political pressure, the prime minister must use maximum good judgment and restraint.
It is in Israel's interest not to make the current spasm of violence more extreme, but to act in a proportionate manner while working to find points of consensus that will break the automatic cycle of violence.
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