Both Attacked and Condemned

All of Israel's attempts to put an end to the Qassams have proven fruitless. But until a leader arises either here or there, we have no other option than wait.

For several years, there have been two items at the start of the news broadcasts every morning: the weather forecast and the firing of Qassams on Sderot. On April 16, 2001, the first Qassam was fired. Experts examined the remnants of the first rocket in amazement and said it is a primitive missile produced in primitive metal shops. Handmade. Not serious.

Two months later, this primitive killed two inhabitants of Sderot, one a child. And for more than five years now, this primitive has been improving, both in power and range. It is nearing strategic sites on the outskirts of Ashkelon. From the air and from the ground, Israel has eliminated scores, if not hundreds of primitive metal shops, but the rockets continue to grow and attack Israeli locales.

They have turned the inhabitants of Sderot into chips for death poker. The numbers of dead are not reckoned in the thousands or hundreds, but the inhabitants of the town are dying of fright every day. The 20-second warning seems like a joke; the inhabitants run across the street as though racing against the second hand. One manages to find shelter, another is stricken with disaster and a leg is amputated.

The mobbing of the buses that Arcadi Gaydamak put at the disposal of Sderot residents, for a vacation away from the fear to Eilat, proves what 17 Qassams in one day, one woman killed and two people wounded, just like that, for no particular reason, do to a town that does not know how to combat despair. The inhabitants admit that were they not of meager means, they would have abandoned the city.

After the Israel Defense Forces' bombardment of Beit Hanun, in which 19 Palestinians were killed by mistake, a huge majority at the United Nations sees Israel as the cruel aggressor. Its apology was not accepted. Perhaps it wasn't entirely believed. But have you ever heard Hamas apologizing for killing women and children? Have they ever asked forgiveness for the firing on Sderot? They have been firing on a civilian locale for more than six years now, and it is Israel that is defined as the aggressor.

Israel is the only country in the world in which one of its cities is a target for rockets every day. One wonders how France would react if Dijon and Rouen were under bombardment. No country would put up with the situation in which one of its cities is a permanent shooting range, and where crossing a street or going to the grocery store has become death poker. The head of the Shin Bet security service is reporting to the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee that there are 33 tons of explosives and hundreds of missiles and rockets of all types in the hands of Hamas. The aim is to hit the Achilles' heel of Israel, which is the home front.

Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, thus signaling that it is capable of not only dismantling Jewish settlements, but also returning territories to the Palestinians under a peace agreement. Regrettably, it is now becoming clear that the most extreme and pessimistic Jewish settlers are the ones who were right. The Palestinians do not want to recognize Israel or come to terms with its existence. And this time, under the baton of Hamas, they are once again not missing a single opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Instead of building up and developing the territory that Israel evacuated, like the Egyptians did in Sinai, they have turned Gush Katif into a base for firing daily at the inhabitants of the Negev, first and foremost those of Sderot; firing that is aimed at civilians, women and children. The warnings of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz that if Qassams are fired after the evacuation of Gaza, Israel's response would be stringent did not really frighten them. We invaded Beit Hanun, we fired from the air, but it didn't help. The second war in Lebanon undermined the standing of the IDF when it revealed the weakness of the home front.

All of Israel's attempts to put an end to the firing of the Qassams, even with Egyptian and European mediation, have proven fruitless. Israel is finding itself both attacked and condemned. And diplomats and journalists are finding themselves repeating over and over the same mantra - the situation cannot continue like this. If Hamas continues to torpedo all discussions by not recognizing Israel and employing terror against its citizens, there will be no choice but to revert to the Biblical method of an eye for an eye. This threat is banal and repeats itself; but what is there left to do, since a leader has yet to arise, either here or there, to help us reinvigorate the headlines with discussions and peace.