There are four or five people in Gaza who now make up what is known as Hamas leadership. The liquidation of each one of them would ensure greater security, say government, IDF and Shin Bet officials. The liquidation of each one of them, says experience, also justifies the killing of people around him, including aides, bodyguards, relatives, neighbors, children, fellow worshipers. Based on the order to assassinate Ahmed Yassin only after he left the mosque, one may understand that the IDF is convinced it is making an effort to minimize collateral damage. Based on these calculations, the fact that seven men who did not deserve death were killed along with Yassin is evidently no great tragedy. Therefore, if we have five leaders deserving of death, then another 35, or 30, or maybe 48 or even 61 deaths, if you throw in the Islamic Jihad targets, too, evidently is no great tragedy either.
Between each of these targeted assassinations, there are also bound to be botched attempts. Several more people will be killed in these attempts "by mistake." How many? Will it be 14, or 22, including three children? The IDF Spokesman will underscore the danger posed by a deserving-of-death terrorist who managed to slip away, and will itemize the list of terrorist attacks he planned, executed, and will execute. And we'll forget about the wounded baby or the worker who was heading home from the market and was killed (not to mention the people killed at protest demonstrations).
You don't need intelligence reports to realize that as far as Hamas is concerned, Yassin's assassination can be considered a "mega-attack" that will elicit a response of commensurate magnitude. Almost certainly, they will not succeed at getting to a high-ranking Israeli, threats notwithstanding. Conceivably, their objective could be a particularly high number of Israeli civilian casualties, instead. Israeli intelligence efforts are now focusing on exposing attempts to avenge Yassin's blood. These intelligence efforts will generate a succession of new deserving-of-death terrorists. Ten men suspected of planning? Twenty worthy of targeted assassination? Just how many people around them is it permissible to kill or injure? Eighty? One hundred?
Sooner or later, the next reprisal terrorist attack will come. Eleven Israeli victims, or 19, dozens of wounded, harsh scenes from the hospital, suffering of the families - these will prove the murderousness of the Palestinians, who kill Jews simply for being Jews. And this terrorist attack, or the one after it, which we will not forget and not forgive, will make it okay to cross another red line. On Monday, they waited for Yassin to leave the mosque. Is the day far off when the helicopter crew obeys an order to launch a missile or bomb at the mosque itself? After which it will be explained: there were four deserving-of-death terrorists inside, each with four armed escorts, and, anyway, the imam there refers to Jews as monkeys and pigs.
And will the day arrive when an Israeli pilot fires a missile or bomb at a Palestinian mourning procession because marching in its two front rows are ranking members of Palestinian organizations, and right behind them are 30 armed masked men waving Kalashnikovs or Qassam launchers? Will that happen after or before the attack on a Jewish target abroad, which would take place after Hamas understands how hard it is, under conditions of a closure, to execute a local terrorist attack?
That is when the new Hamas leaders will sprout. The fact that the intelligence briefings have yet to include them does not mean they do not exist and are not prepared to take risks, be interviewed on television, and become targets of Israeli assassinations. Will this raise the number of those not-deserving-death in their environs that it is permissible to kill to, say, 100? In response to two Palestinian suicide bombings that will snuff out the lives of 30 Israelis, or 50, and another 45 attacks in preparation and three that were foiled, would the payment of 1,000 Palestinians killed be considered a suitable, logical, acceptable tax?
Israel's military and technological superiority is obvious to every Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip who swears to take revenge. The thousands who are prepared to commit suicide are well aware that they have nil chance of getting out of the Gaza Strip, and that most of them will be killed before managing to reach a nearby settlement. In Israel, military superiority was once presented as a precondition for any diplomatic settlement. But in effect it is the substitute that makes any diplomatic settlement superfluous.
Consciously or not, this superiority is hidden from the eyes of the average Israeli, who welcomes the assassination of Yassin, but is scared to death of the next terrorist attack. For many, this personal fear is translated into the deceptive sense that Israel itself faces existential threat. The Israeli government seemingly cultivates this fear of existential threat. Therefore, this personal fear is an important factor in the ability of the Israeli military-intelligence-settlement elite, which is aware of its superiority, to cross another red line. It knows it has the backing of a majority of the Israeli public, which is convinced that this time, but really this time, the targeted assassination will bring us closer to a respite and to Palestinian surrender.