From January 1 until December 21, Hamas and its allies had launched exactly 1,250 rockets across the border between Gaza and Israel. Then the escalation really started: on Wednesday 70 projectile missiles landed in the Negev and its populated areas. On Thursday, more of the same. On Friday, two Palestinian girls, cousins of 5 and 12 years, were killed by a rocket that was launched in the Strip and landed in the Strip. But these unfortunates were not the targets of fire. It was just another day of blast offs into the Jewish state.
The government in Jerusalem had made it unmistakably clear that it would no longer tolerate this fire power aimed at innocent civilian life. It had been saying this for months to an increasingly skeptical and apprehensive, not to say, restive public. And to Hamas which didn't seem to care. Instead, it threatened Israel by word and follow-up deeds that confirmed the recklessness - as if confirmation was needed- of also this Palestinian "liberation" movement, the last in the long line of terrorist revolutionaries acting in the name of pathetic and blood-thirsty Palestine.
So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews. At roughly noon, another 60 air-attack vehicles went after other Hamas strategic positions. Israeli intelligence reported 225 people dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides, and perhaps 400 wounded. The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.
Frankly, I am up to my gullet with this reflex criticism of Israel as going beyond proportionality in its responses to war waged against its population with the undisguised intention of putting an end to the political expression of the Jewish nation. Within hours, Nicolas Sarkozy was already taking up the cudgel of French righteousness and pronouncing the actually quite sober Israeli response to the continuous war on its borders "disproportionate." Enough. What would be proportionate, oh, so so proportionate apparently, are those tried-and-true half measures to contain Hamas that have never worked. Remember that in 2005 Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians waiting and hoping that they would make something of a civil society of their territory, civil for their own and civil to their neighbors. It was not to be.
There is only small likelihood that Hamas has learned its lesson. These Sunni fanatics are still supported by the Shi'a fanatics in Iran. And they are also backed by the House of Saud which cannot be seen to be turning its back on Sunni piety. Gaza is the only place in the Middle East where Tehran and Riyadh are allied. In both Lebanon and Iraq, they are the bankrollers (and more than bankrollers) of hostile sectarian forces engaged in killing each other. Thus, Hamas has still some rope with which to play. Cash, after all, is a great deluder.
The current warfare will go on a bit longer. If there is a pause and if I were giving advice to the Israelis, this is what I would say to Hamas and to the people of Gaza: "If a rocket or missile is launched against us, if you take captive one of our soldiers (as you have held one for two and a half years), if you raise a new Intifada against us, there will be an immediate response. And it will be very disproportionate. Proportion does not work."
No sooner had I written these last words that Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader exiled in Damascus (which also apparently pines to make peace with Israel), announced the beginning of the Third Intifada.