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Terrorists have used pistols and automatic rifles to kill individuals. They have used suicide bombers with pinpoint accuracy to kill groups assembled in places of entertainment. They have used aircraft to kill hundreds and thousands. But the most effective terror weapon has become the ballistic rocket. It is cheap and launched from a distance against civilian targets, allowing the terrorists to escape before the rocket lands.

For some years now, Israel's civilian population has been targeted by terrorist rockets: first Katyusha rockets in the north launched by Hezbollah terrorists, and then Qassam rockets in the south launched by Hamas terrorists. Initially there were tens of rockets, then there were hundreds. But now, the threat comes from tens of thousands of rockets directed at Israel's civilian population.

Moreover, at first only certain border areas were threatened. But now, the entire country is under the threat of terrorist rocket attacks.

What used to be a basic tenet of Israel's defense doctrine - that in war, the safety of the civilian population must be assured - has gradually been abandoned. Now, military spokesmen announce that in case of war, Israel's entire civilian population can expect to be hit by terrorist rockets. This is a fundamental change for the worse in Israel's strategic posture.

How have we allowed this intolerable situation to creep up on us? Were our leaders asleep, not aware of what was happening around us?

Actually, some of them are responsible for bringing about this situation. The unilateral withdrawal from the security zone in south Lebanon left Hezbollah free to greatly increase the number of ballistic rockets in its possession, while the failure of the Second Lebanon War allowed Hezbollah to take control of Lebanon, freely bring in rockets from Syria and deploy them, ready for launch against Israel, throughout Lebanon.

Then the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip brought Hamas to power in Gaza, and Hamas terrorists began launching rockets with impunity against the civilian population of southern Israel. That went on for years without an Israeli response.

Although finally, Operation Cast Lead in 2008 substantially decreased the number of rockets launched at Israel, the people in the south still receive an almost daily dose of rockets and mortar shells from terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The operation was stopped before the job was completed, and Hamas is now increasing its stock of ballistic missiles, preparing for the next round.

Whereas many Israelis seem to be quite concerned about what "the world" thinks of Israel, we ought to realize that many countries that are deeply worried when threatened by terrorism on their home soil seem not to care much that Israel's entire civilian population is under terrorist threat. It is not to them that we can look for a solution to this problem; this is a problem we will have to face ourselves.

What to do? For a long period of time, our leaders seemed to be in a state of denial.

First we were told that our scientists were developing ballistic missile interception systems that would in time provide a defensive umbrella over the civilian population and shoot down whatever missiles the terrorists launched. You did not have to be a rocket scientist to know this was a pipe dream. Quite aside from the great technological challenges that must be surmounted in developing such systems, the difference in cost between the cheap missile being launched and the complex system designed to intercept it is so great that this cannot possibly be a solution to the problem.

Then we were told we could deter the terrorists from using these weapons against us. Think again: Who is deterring whom?

Does that mean there is nothing to do but dig more shelters for the civilian population and supply everyone with his or her personal gas mask? Not so fast. Acceptance of this intolerable situation should not be the answer.

There are things that can be done to decrease the dimensions of the danger facing us and begin to swing the strategic balance in our favor. They include steps of a defensive nature, of an offensive nature and of a deterrent nature.

Our prime minister, our defense minister, the "septet" of seven key ministers, the cabinet, the National Security Council, the Israel Defense Forces and the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee had better put their thinking caps on and go to work. There is much to be done, and time may be short.

Or else, we had better get ready for the next commission of inquiry.