It took just 12 days from completion of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza before rockets started raining down on the Western Negev area from the now-unoccupied territory. The attacks late Friday might have occurred sooner had the terrorists not been preoccupied with torching synagogues and destroying flower-growing operations in Gaza that could have been used to produce income for Palestinian residents. Sadly, their hatred of all things Jewish prompted them to act against their self-interest.
(Late Sunday night, following crushing retaliatory attacks by Israel and threats from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of an even more massive response, Hamas announced that it was halting all attacks from the Gaza Strip. For now, perhaps, but given its history, one can safely bet, not for good.)
A Reuters story about the Israeli attacks on Saturday said, "The upsurge in violence was a blow to international hopes that the pullout could revive peacemaking." The concept of international "hopes" is founded on the false premise that peace is dependent only on Israel's behavior. Every time Israel offers concessions, withdrawals, confidence-building measures and other "good faith" gestures, the response is more terror, more death and no peace. Will there ever come a time when the United States and the international community concludes that forcing Israel into making unilateral concessions is not a prescription for peace, but a guarantee of more war?
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is facing a growing political challenge from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, should have seen this coming because it has happened so many times before.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz promised a "crushing and unequivocal response" to the rocket attack. The Hamas terrorist group blamed Israel for an explosion at a Hamas rally Friday afternoon that killed 15 people, though the Palestinian Authority said it appeared to have been an accident caused by Hamas members carrying explosives in a crowded area. Hamas vowed to resist any raid in Gaza and called for attacks on Israel.
Continuing his denial of the obvious, the top U.N. envoy to the Middle East, Alvaro de Soto, told the Security Council last Friday that the "road map" remains the only realistic method for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Not exactly. The road map requires reciprocity. So far, Israel has been the only party doing the giving and the Palestinian-Hamas-Fatah side has been doing the taking and the killing. Why should they stop when violence is giving them what they want?
Commenting on Israel's withdrawal, but ignoring the continuing terrorist threat, de Soto said, "Forces of moderation have prevailed over those of extremism."
You could have fooled me!
After de Soto spoke, the Security Council approved a statement again calling on both sides to adhere to the Road Map and saying the Gaza pullout must be only one step toward further Israeli withdrawal and efforts to achieve a viable Palestinian state.
The "quartet" of the U.N., the United States, Russia and the European Union has succeeded only in pressuring Israel to give and give and give. Whatever pressure it has applied to the Palestinian-Hamas-Fatah side has produced no cessation of violence, no disarmament and, in fact, no concessions at all.
The frustrating part is that no one pays attention to the pronouncements of the terrorists. Hamas announced it would flood Gaza with its soldiers once Israel withdrew. Islamo-fascist clerics call for the annihilation of Israel and tell jihadists it is their religious duty to kill Jews and Christians. Our "friends," the Saudis and Egyptians allow this rhetoric to flow unimpeded from their mosques and in their government-run media. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration and its State Department sink deeper into denial and pretend the terrorists don't mean what they say. The terrorists trumpet their plans and then carry them out. After they have caused death and destruction, they promise to do it again. Objectives can't be made clearer than that.
Will a second coming of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister make a difference? Perhaps. He once told me he had learned a valuable lesson from his own concessions during the Clinton Administration. Netanyahu should tell Israelis and the world that if he again becomes Prime Minister he will not budge on more land concessions until the Palestinian-Hamas-Fatah side begins responding positively to all of Israel's concessions.
Having given so much and received nothing in return, it may now be too late to save Israel, but giving more without getting anything insures Israel's extinction sooner, rather than later.
- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.