The time for decisions faces the Israeli government. In recent hours, the Islamist group Hamas has fired 250 rockets into Israel. Some have had a range of 70 miles, reaching the urban centers of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Hadera. The defensive system known as Iron Dome is destroying these incoming rockets. So extraordinary is this technological feat that no Israelis so far have been killed or wounded. Retaliating, the Israeli air force has taken out a number of missile launching sites in Gaza. That is merely a palliative. Hamas is known to have hundreds more rockets in store. The sole realistic counter-measure is an armed incursion to capture and neutralize these arsenals.
Two previous attempts by Israeli forces to put an end to Hamas aggression stopped short of this definitive step. Hamas was therefore left in a position to start again as and when it chose to. Left to fire rockets another day, Hamas seems to have inferred either that Israel did not have strength sufficient for the task of ensuring its own safety or that outside powers would pressure it and so rescue Hamas from the consequences of its policy. And sure enough, here come Washington, London, the United Nations, and the media urging Israel to show “restraint,” or in plain language, leave Hamas to dictate its campaign.
“Gone are the Days of Defeat: Victory is Close,” is a slogan current in Gaza. Hamas leaders speak as if they are operating from a position of superior strength, willing and able to commit genocide on Israel. To anyone with a memory, this will seem like the run-up to the Six Day War of 1967 when Gamal Abdul Nasser on behalf of Egypt was welcoming the assured and imminent end of Israel. Israeli victory in that war changed the disposition of the Arab world. The global jihad now under way is changing it yet again, this time setting all against all, sect against sect, community against community, in vicious self-perpetuating spirals. Hamas attacking Israel is different in name but not in motivation from Sunnis attacking Alawites in Syria, or Shiites attacking Kurds in Iraq.
Forty thousand Israeli soldiers are now in position along the Gaza border. Should they wait there and eventually turn for home leaving Hamas in possession of its rocket arsenals, they will be in the position of having made a threat that they did not carry through. The world would once again applaud, and Hamas crow that it is winning. Prevarication in pursuing the national interest has discredited President Obama and would similarly discredit Prime Minister Netanyahu. The choice before Netanyahu, then, is a true test of the man.