To Israelis, right or left, it is clear that a constant barrage of rockets, aimed at Israel’s civilian population cannot be tolerated. This is not a matter of political opinion, nor is it unique to Israel. It is just that Israelis were actually slow to come to that conclusion.  Imagine 12,000 rockets coming down on Milan, or on Dallas, or on Liverpool. Italians, Americans, or the English are not likely to tolerate it for very long. Not as long as Israel has, in any case.
But a strange double standard seems to apply to the case of Israel. Hamas can deliberately target civilians, and not be accountable, and any Israeli response, no matter how carefully targeting military sites, is suspected of being a war crime. You can’t win this game – that is stop the rockets – if one party plays fair, and the other is bound by no rules.
It is sad that we have reached a point where nothing short of a massive strike can do any good. Had the international community, and Israel too, taken more stern measures – an economic boycott, a cutting off of gas supply until the rockets stop – we would have been able to prevent this last resort. But if the Hamas is never accountable, and Israel is responsible to the welfare of Gaza’s citizens while Gaza’s government is not, then Hamas can be the aggressor and still pose as the victim. Israel has withdrawn from Gaza unilaterally. It recognized that the occupation cannot go on. But Hamas has since been bent on teaching Israel that withdrawal is a bad idea. Israel will only get rockets in response.
Under these circumstances an attack on Gaza is not only justifiable. It is also necessary for those who believe that the occupation of the West Bank must end too. Because to get out of there we must first know that it is possible to prevent the barrage of rockets, which may well land on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem if Israel withdraws from these regions too. This is why supporters of peace here are no less in favor of the strike in Gaza. They are not only morally right in thinking so. They are also pragmatic.
It will probably not be long before a general outcry against Israel will be heard world wide. But until then Israel must show Hamas that it is willing to pay a price, even internationally, to reestablish deterrence. Anything short of that will mean surrendering to the enemies of peace.

Published in Corriere Della Sera (Italy) December 28, 2008.

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