The Only Option

Ending the occupation is still the goal to which any tactic employed during the current crisis must lead.

The Qassam rocket fire on Sderot and the attack on the Israel Defense Forces outpost at Kerem Shalom have brought the right, in its various forms, back to life, and undermined public support for the disengagement policy that the government was elected to carry out. The charm of security-oriented rhetoric is once again captivating the public's heart, even though this formula has been tried over the course of 40 years of occupation and failed utterly.

Israel's strength, as well as its deterrent power, have been damaged not by the under use of force, but by its overuse. The Palestinians' determination and stamina have only increased as their situation worsened. We must acknowledge that every military tactic employed by Israel has given birth to no-less creative and painful Palestinian tactics - suicide bombings, Qassam fire, tunnels - that have managed to harass and wear out the strongest state in the Middle East. There is nothing more debilitating than a feeling of having lost one's way and purpose.

The right always proposes the same recipe, but in ever-increasing doses: If we did not manage to deter them by using force, we need to use more force; and if that fails, then we need to use even more force. The establishment of the settlements was, and remains, a form of using force, as is construction of the fence along a route that harms Palestinian life more than necessary for security purposes. The attempt to topple an elected government by means of tanks and to remove members of an elected parliament by arresting them also constitutes a policy of aggression.

It was perhaps naive to assume that the withdrawal from Gaza in itself would convince the Palestinians that the end of the conflict was on the horizon. The Palestinians have continued to fight the occupation and the settlements, and both continue to exist in all their glory in the West Bank, even if it is difficult to view the Qassam fire as a reasonable means of obtaining better living conditions and a better future for Gaza residents.

At this time, it must be reiterated - and it would be appropriate for the prime minister to find the time and the strength of will to do so - that Israel has no option in the long run other than withdrawing from the territories and from the occupation. The Qassam launches' infringement on Israeli sovereignty is intolerable, and Israel must cause it to end. But this problem, grave as it is, is essentially tactical. It is not a reason for returning to Gaza, and a return to Gaza would bolster neither Israel's sovereignty nor its deterrent capabilities. Toppling the Hamas government is liable to result in chaos on the Palestinian side and deter the Palestinians from holding elections in the future, given that Israel and the Western world are not honoring the results.

It is possible to hope that the current crisis will actually lead to negotiations over its end, including an end to the fire on Sderot. In any case, and this should also be reiterated periodically, Israel's interest is for the Palestinians to live a life of plenty and well-being, not a life of hunger and humiliation. Therefore, nothing could be more imbecilic than destroying infrastructure and bombing transformer stations, when the very next day, the energy minister is already suggesting that Israel's government repair them.

Ending the occupation is still the goal to which any tactic employed during the current crisis must lead. Instead of the "blood and guts" rhetoric being heard from all the cabinet ministers, as well as from the opposition, our leadership must send the message that it knows where it is going.