Restraint is not possible
The Israel Defense Forces raison d'etre is to protect the country's citizens from attack. Even if the success of a military operation is not guaranteed, that concern must not prevent the government from doing what is necessary in order to protect the lives of its citizens and the state's border.
The firing of Qassam rockets against Sderot and the nearby kibbutzim is not stopping and is extracting a heavy price in terms of fear and blood. Responsibility for the shooting from the Gaza Strip, which has been going on for seven years - both before and after the disengagement from the Strip - falls on the Palestinians. Were it not for the shooting, Israel would not respond.
For the past eight months Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip alone, and it is no longer possible to explain away the shooting as due to a lack of control over rogue organizations. The time has come for the Palestinians to ask themselves and their leadership about the direction they are heading. Are the West Bank and the Gaza Strip still one entity, aspiring to establish an independent state alongside Israel? Is it possible that in all situations, Israel will hold negotiations for the establishment of such a state while Hamas is shooting at it? Has Hamas decided to foil a peace agreement and chosen for its people the option of continuous war?
Israel left the Gaza Strip in the summer 2005 to signal the start of an end to the occupation. Kadima was set up after leading figures in Likud, with Ariel Sharon at their head, decided to withdraw from the Greater Land of Israel to more secure and limited borders. The party's political platform also included a withdrawal from the West Bank, dividing the land into two states for two peoples and an evacuation of settlements. In order to show the seriousness of its intentions, settlements from Gush Katif and northern Samaria were evacuated without an agreement.
The ball passed to the Palestinian court, where it has been stuck after the Palestinians elected Hamas, which opposes a peace agreement with Israel. Instead of Gaza becoming the cornerstone for a Palestinian state, it has become a hostile entity under siege.
The disengagement was not a mistake, but a necessary move of vision and hope. Hamas undermined the hope for a shared future and opted to preserve, as its declared policy, its "resistance" to the existence of the State of Israel, and by extension continue its path of violence. While Israel is trying to correct its historic error of settling in the heart of the Palestinian population by converging into old-new borders of a more ethical democracy, the Palestinians elected Hamas, which is not willing to compromise. The Qassam attacks are not proof that the disengagement failed, but that the Hamas rule is leading the Palestinians into a new round of an unnecessary war. While Mahmoud Abbas is trying to preserve, with the skin of his teeth, a channel of dialogue with Israel, one that will lead to an agreement, Hamas and the other groups are making great efforts to foil any chance for a solution.
If the limited military actions Israel is undertaking in an effort to bring an end to the Qassam rockets will not bring an end to the shooting; if the moderate states, and first and foremost Egypt and Jordan fail to contain Hamas - Israel will have no option but to embark on a broad military operation.
The Israel Defense Forces raison d'etre is to protect the country's citizens from attack. Even if the success of a military operation is not guaranteed, that concern must not prevent the government from doing what is necessary in order to protect the lives of its citizens and the state's border. The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political, and should always be pursued. At the same time, Israel must prove that the blood of its citizens cannot be forfeited - so that in the future, its neighbors will abide by the agreements to which they have committed.