Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ashqelon Hit Hard

The katyusha or Grad rocket attack on Ashqelon today surely marks a new chapter in the war between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. Since the disengagement from Gaza, we have seen a steady erosion of red lines, as more and more Israeli civilians have come under fire from Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups in the Strip. It may be important at the political level to distinguish among the various factions carrying out the rocket attacks and to evaluate particular motives. For the military, however, these kinds of considerations are irrelevant. What matters is that Palestinian terrorist groups have acquired and preserved the means to strike major Israeli population centers, despite a much-maligned "siege" of Gaza and numerous air force as well as ground operations. And even though the latter have often claimed the lives of many Palestinians - civilians and fighters - Israel has not been able to establish effective deterrence. Neither diplomatic nor military means have so far been able to protect Israeli civilians from these attacks. Despite countless announcements about an imminent truce this past year, we seem no closer to calm on the southern border than before. With Prime Minister Olmert's political career in limbo and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor) possibly facing challenges from inside and outside the party, we may end up seeing the kind of major ground operation that the Israeli right has been agitating for. Such an operation may also be accompanied by assassinations of Hamas's political leadership.

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