Somebody needs to tell the truth. To the inhabitants of Beit Hanoun, to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, to the Arabs of the territories, to the whole world.
It is a simple, harsh and single truth: those who fire thousands of Kassam rockets upon a civilian population for years, those who accumulate tons of explosive materials, arms and Katyusha rockets for months, those who impose terrorism and fear upon an entire region for no apparent reason need to understand that they cannot hide behind women and children. Such behavior carries a price tag.
Every country in the world has an obligation to protect its citizens. Israel’s behavior in Gaza has been much more moderate, humane and moral than the way American, British or Russian armies would respond to terrorists who consistently fired on Texas, Coventry or Moscow. This is not a theoretical assumption. It is an historical fact whose traces are buried in the ruins of Grozny, the ruins of Afghan villages, cities in Iraq or what was once Dresden during World War II. If we go to less enlightened regimes, for example in the Arab world, we see even worse outcomes.
Yet of course, only Israel is criticized. Only we are yelled at. That is how it is. It is hard to be a Jew. It is hard to live, and it is also hard to defend ourselves. Although the burden of proof upon us is heavier, we may not flinch from it. Therefore, alongside the deep regret that every human being must feel at the shocking photographs that were broadcast from Beit Hanoun yesterday, we also need to tell the truth. The truth is that until they stop firing Kassam rockets upon Israel, Israel must keep firing back. Yes, firing back. They shoot to kill women and children. We do not. Never. But when they shoot at us from inside inhabited areas, it is very difficult to prevent mishaps or terrible incidents. And so, precisely in light of what happened in Beit Hanoun yesterday, I would state again with courage, straight into their eyes, to the whole world, that this is the situation: until there is quiet in Sderot, there will be no peace in Gaza. When you cut down trees, chips fly. When you fire rockets, shells fall. When one of them strays it is a shame, it is disastrous, it is bad, but that is how it is. Every other method has been tried, and failed. With scoundrels you behave like a scoundrel, and with murderous, bloodthirsty terrorism that wants to wipe you off the map, you have to respond accordingly: wipe it out.
Yesterday evening, while OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant was being interviewed on Channel Two, a Kassam rocket landed near a children’s home in Kfar Aza. Yesterday morning, on Army Radio, Hamas operative Rabhi Rantisi said angrily: “What do you expect, that the Arabs will sit quietly now?”
Well, dear Rabhi, we do not expect the Arabs to sit quietly now. We expected that they would sit quietly after we left Gaza. After Israel uprooted thousands of its citizens from their homes, turned them into refugees, invested billions and stood on the brink of civil war in order to leave Gaza completely, station itself on the international border and even forfeit the Philadelphi Road. Yes, in our naiveté we expected that now, at least in Gaza, “they would sit quietly.” Instead of that, we got intensified barrages of upgraded Kassam rockets, tons of explosives and Hamas in power. And somebody else, Hamas operative Ghazi Hamad, said on the radio, “Now we need to wipe Israel off the map.”
Enough already. Wake up and smell the coffee. It was written in the Hamas charter well before the incident in Beit Hanoun, Mr. Hamad. This is your doctrine, your faith, it is what you have been trying to do since the departure from Gaza, since the “pilot program” that Ariel Sharon tried to do here and got dozens of explosive tunnels and bombs instead. After Ghazi Hamad, an Israeli commentator came on the air and said, “Now, after this incident, hatred of Israel in Gaza has skyrocketed.” Oh, dear. And what was going on before this incident? Was a blazing love for Zionism and for Jews running wild in the streets? After all, these people, whose lives we left only slightly more than a year ago, leaving them free to do their will, could have created a model for reconstruction, coexistence, peace. They could have invested a hundredth of their murderous energies in reconstructing refugee camps. A tenth of the money that they invest in terrorism for building new housing blocks. They could have proven to the world that when Israel leaves, withdraws and recognizes the international border, a solution is accomplished and calm achieved. They could have given us a reason to leave the West Bank as well.
But instead, they fell upon us with wild rage. They are not attacking the 1967 borders; they are attacking the 1948 lines. They are not challenging the occupation, and they are not arguing with the oppression. They want to uproot us from here, wipe us from the face of the earth. And what can we do-we do not intend to allow that to happen.
The evening before the incident in Beit Hanoun I saw Salman a-Shafi, Channel Two’s energetic reporter, on television, showing the world, together with Islamic Jihad operatives, the new rocket that they have developed. The one that will soon be landing in a shopping center in Sderot, or near a children’s home in Kfar Aza (if not on top of it). Someone suggested, “Talk to them, resume the dialogue.” And you look at atrocity, at madness, at hatred, and you ask yourself: what will we talk about? Perhaps we will talk about ending the occupation in Gaza? Perhaps we will offer to withdraw and allow them to rebuild their lives, cool their emotions, separate the combatants? And you remember that we already did that.
We have already left. We have already withdrawn. And none of it helped. They keep on firing rockets, they keep on kidnapping soldiers on the international border, they keep on hiding behind women and children. This equation needs to be broken. Just as the Lebanese now know that those who store rockets in their homes are liable to be harmed by rockets, so ever Arab mother in Gaza needs to know that it will be impossible to get a quiet night’s sleep anywhere if the children of Sderot do not get a quiet night’s sleep. And a place where rockets are fired from will have rockets fired at it. Close to 1,000 Kassam rockets have been fired from Beit Hanoun since disengagement. And so, we need to grit our teeth and go on. All they have to do to get quiet is to stop shooting. Until then, there will be no quiet, and sometimes, there will be mishaps. Yesterday, between the many reports from Beit Hanoun, a man by the name of Rafi Eitan succeeded in getting on the radio and recounting how he captured Adolf Eichmann 46 years ago. Well, it looks like the Eichmanns are not dead, they only change places, and sometimes they need to be captured anew.
This piece was published in Maariv