When PM Olmert, DM Peretz and COS Halutz snap back at their critics that the IDF is already doing everything it can to stop the Qassams from the Gaza Strip, there are some huge caveats attached to the claim.

The IDF’s mission includes destroying weapons stores, but if the weapons are stored in a residential area, the IDF gives the Palestinians thirty minutes warning before attacking the location to either relocate the weapons or bring in even more human shields to protect it from attack.

Weapons stored in “sensitive” locations such as mosques are off limits to IDF operations and Palestinian combatants can shield themselves with cooperative civilians.

No operation within the Gaza Strip can be open ended – even in the Philadelphi Corridor that separates between Egyptian Sinai and Gaza.

And so, having set rules that make it next to impossible to succeed, it is hardly surprising that this team is so keen on finding a way to make a deal with the Palestinians according to which the various Palestinian groups can continue smuggling in weapons and manufacturing ever more effective Qassam rockets as long as they don’t shoot.

For a while.

Until they decide to start shooting again.

When they can shoot even more powerful and more numerous rockets prepared during the Israeli hiatus in security operations.

If the above rules reflect some notion of morality, then it’s a sick one which gives preference to the lives of Palestinian human shields over those of Israeli victims.

If these rules are for public relations, they indicate a profound misunderstanding of how the world sees the story.

The world doesn’t praise Israel for respecting human shields – they either don’t believe it or they think Israel is stupid. And there is no reward for stupidity.

And the world certainly isn’t impressed by the restraint Israel has shown so far. That’s because even restrained operations can make a headline or get a few seconds on the evening news on a slow news day.

The truth is that the PR costs of a massive brutally effective operation are barely more than the costs of a mediocre one.

That’s because you get almost the same coverage for an operation taking place simultaneously in ten locations as in only one. The same goes for casualties.

The Olmert-Peretz-Halutz approach is wrong. Dead wrong.

The last thing Israel can afford to do today is continue policies that could ultimately corner it into accepting a timeout for a Palestinians arms build-up.

For if Israel accepts such a timeout, the Jewish State may find itself in the same situation as the proverbial frog in a pot of water being slowly heated to a boil.