We are at the height of a battle in Israel's south. There was a fatal Grad strike on Saturday night in Beersheba and who knows what today will bring? Two dead and several wounded will inevitably evoke a tough response from the IDF. Terrorism practically forces Israel to retaliate; there is no choice. In the arenas of diplomacy and security, the fog of war is thick and we can only offer an interim report.
Security-wise, we know we had advance warning of this attack, but the alert did not trigger any type of counterterrorism action. We can't thwart terror without alerts, and in most cases, they bring the desired results -- the public never learns of the potential terror attack, or does so only marginally. Still, an alert is not a foolproof insurance policy against all attacks. On Thursday our insurance failed.
The IDF inquiry will explain why it failed and offer solutions for the future. It will improve coordination between the IDF and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). It will also help us to better deploy our soldiers. The next alert will lower the flame of terror - the same way that the separation fence has proven its mettle in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. As of yet, a fence has not been erected along the entire border with Egypt.
A separation fence and the deployment of Special Forces will definitely bring results, but terrorists have always had, and always will have, the element of surprise to their advantage. On occasion, they will succeed. The real test is in the statistics. How many times are they successful and how many times do they fail?
The IDF responded immediately to Thursday's attack, and with great force. It hit the terrorist leaders directly responsible for the murder of eight Israelis. Professor and MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) wondered aloud why we hadn't killed the Popular Resistance Committees leadership before the attack. It sounds like a reasonable proposition, but it goes against our national interest. If Israel had struck them a month ago the whole world, including our allies, would have turned against us. They would have rushed to accuse us of disrupting the quiet and also of attempting to divert attention away from the tents on Rothschild Boulevard to the breached border in the Negev.
The IDF did not stop after eradicating the terrorist leadership. It continued on. The battlefield is once again in flames. Hamas has been dragged along behind al-Qaida. The Palestinian Authority was quick to condemn Israel for defending itself. That's because Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat lacks basic integrity and the leadership in Ramallah is feeble.
It's possible that extremist forces will not succeed in ensnaring Hamas into conflict and that the cease-fire along the borders of Gaza and Egypt will be restored in the coming days. There will not be another Operation Cast Lead in the foreseeable future. Not before the U.N. General Assembly convenes in September and deliberates over the one-sided establishment of a Palestinian state.
This is incomprehensible, mainly because Hamas will be permitted, in violation of the Oslo accords, to take part in the 2012 elections and might even win Palestinian leadership. If this happens, it will be the equivalent of having a state handed to them on a silver platter.
In the diplomatic arena, Egypt is a major disappointment. Just last week, Israel agreed to have additional Egyptian troops deployed in the Sinai. Israel did not complain to Egypt about the acts of terror launched from bases directly adjacent to their army positions. It did not blame Mohamed Tantawi, commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces, for the fact that the bloody terror attack came from within his sovereign territory.
And now Cairo has the audacity to lash out at Israel as if it is responsible for the death of five Egyptian soldiers. While it is possible they were hit by Israeli fire, the bullets were exchanged amidst the mayhem that followed the murder of Senior NCO Pascal Avrahami.
At first Egypt threatened to recall its ambassador to Israel. An apology from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, coupled with U.S. intervention, thwarted this rash move. The current Egyptian regime, however, has nevertheless been exposed in all its weakness.
We are dealing with a delicate situation. Israel must persist in its efforts to square the circle with the understanding that it will not succeed, because no one ever succeeds. But we have to try to come as close as we possibly can.