Boiling the Frog

How is it possible for a sovereign state - and the State of Israel in particular, to accept the current situation in Sderot?

There is an urban legend that says you can put a frog in water and raise the temperature gradually, one degree at a time, so that the frog becomes accustomed to the heat - until the water boils and the frog is cooked. Some people tested this legend and found that, like many others, it is only a legend. The frog jumps out of the water before it is cooked.

Judging by what is currently happening in Sderot, Israel is becoming the legendary frog. How is it possible for a sovereign state - and the State of Israel in particular, considering what it represents and symbolizes, its history and the background of its establishment - to accept the current situation in Sderot? Of course, one could present arguments about the complexity of the situation, the quagmire in Gaza, diplomatic considerations, the involvement of the international community, legal constraints and limitations, and so on and so forth. The situation would still be unreasonable.

What has happened over the years and what is occurring now in Sderot is strange, illogical, unreasonable and, in particular, immoral. What started as a Qassam here and there, falling in open areas and causing no damage, and later developed into heavier firing by marginal groups, has now escalated into Gaza's governing authority, Hamas, openly and declaratively firing Qassam rockets at Sderot on a daily basis. These rockets kill and injure, and are making life unbearable. And all this is happening after Israel disengaged from Gaza, evacuated the last of its civilians and soldiers, and brought the occupation there to an end.

In his impressive speech at the Knesset when the war in Lebanon began, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said there are moments in the life of a nation when it is necessary to say "enough," and he is right. In regard to Gaza, the State of Israel must now say "enough."

Regretfully, there is no alternative to conducting a large-scale military operation in Gaza, and the sooner the better. Indeed, there is no military solution to the conflict, and perhaps there is also no complete military solution to the Qassams, just as there is no complete military solution to terrorism. Nonetheless, anyone who concludes from this that Israel should or can accept the current situation, and that the only relief is via an agreement or some sort of accord, is making a serious mistake. This would put the State of Israel in an extremely difficult situation.

There is no doubt the IDF is capable - via a wide-ranging, long-term military action - of bringing about a fundamental change in Gaza and creating conditions that would allow the residents of Sderot to live a reasonable, if not completely normal, life. And no one is talking about "occupying" Gaza, in the sense of controlling it for a long time.

There is a cost associated with this type of operation. The foreign minister said in a cabinet meeting that killing civilians carries a diplomatic price. That is true, and it is the job of the foreign minister to make this clear to the cabinet. But in the past Israel was prepared to pay, and it paid heavy diplomatic costs and assumed many risks when it felt its security and the security of its citizens were at stake. This was the case in the Entebbe operation, the bombing of the Iraqi reactor and many other instances.

For Israel, this is the true meaning of deterrent capability, which is so crucial for the state. This type of military action entails not only a diplomatic cost, but also an economic one and, most difficult of all, the lives of soldiers. But we know very well that a nation that is not prepared to defend itself and its freedom cannot exist, certainly not in the Middle East.

A wide-scale military action in Gaza is a security, political and strategic necessity for Israel and, above all else, it is also a moral imperative.

Dr. Yehuda Ben Meir is a former deputy foreign minister.