The western Negev city of Sderot, and its various satellite communities, bled over the weekend with dozens of rockets. Hamas vowed that a cease-fire was close, but now that vow will be put to the test. Egypt is involved in mediating a cease-fire agreement, but on a lower scale than in previous rounds of rockets from Gaza into Israel. All eyes in Egypt are certainly pointed to Cairo, where the identity of the new president will, or won't, be revealed.
In security assessments that followed the murder by Sinai terrorists of Said Fashapshe, an Israeli-Arab contractor, on the border with Egypt last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz shaped the IDF's modus operandi. After the shooting attack on the border construction crew, it is clear that it was Hamas that escalated the violence, not Israel. On the contrary: The IDF was actually ordered to limit its assaults only to the absolute necessary minimum. For its part, Israel left the door open to a quick end to the violence.
In an editorial that may serve as a milestone in the historical record of the war against Palestinian terror, the Haaretz newspaper urged Israel's army to hold its fire and not respond to rockets from Gaza. The newspaper knows that the Palestinians violated the cease-fire, but "Israel can show restraint from time to time without harming its citizens' security, and possibly even improving it." Why? How? At what point did terror ever end in the absence of an Israeli response? There is no precedent for this. Haaretz's statement is baseless.
The editorial goes on to say: "There are situations when showing restraint is the real show of force." What situations are they talking about? When did that ever happen? Haaretz also semi-justifies the death of the Israeli contractor who was simply doing his job: "As long as the diplomatic process remains frozen, and Gaza remains under a partial siege, the attacks on Israel will continue." What does one have to do with the other? The debate over whether Israel is working hard enough to advance peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, though contested by different schools of thought, has nothing to do with Hamas rule in Gaza. Haaretz's intentions may have been good, but its recommendation is wrongheaded.
It is in Israel's best interest to renew the cease-fire with Hamas – that is why the IDF has been so restrained these last few days. In fact, the IDF has been acting in a defensive posture only, mainly to foil rocket fire on Israel. The IDF is playing defense rather than dealing a painful blow to the people of Gaza, with the aim of convincing Hamas to tighten its control over the Gaza Strip's other terror organizations.
Should Israel adopt a 'neither here, neither there' policy – at times hitting back and at times holding back – this would only encourage Gaza's terrorists to create even bolder provocations. Our government must strike the right balance between response and escalation. More retaliation than necessary will lead to escalation. Not enough retaliation risks leaving Israel looking weak, which encourages continued terror.
The formula is very complex, and the right balance cannot always be struck right off the bat. The outcome of the current round of fighting is yet to be determined, but in any case, it is clear that if the cease-fire is not renewed, the violence will only escalate.