Should the Israeli Defense Forces leave parts of Gaza City looking like Berlin after the Russians finished with it in 1945, it will be hard to shed a tear.
Taking a signal from the U.S. elections, Hamas terrorists have been engaged in a barrage of missile attacks against Israeli cities, counting perhaps on the Obama administration's unwillingness to get involved as an excuse to press their case through military means.
Obama has, up to now, been largely uncritical of the militants who threaten Israel's existence. He has previously called for the world's only officially Jewish state to return to its pre-1967 borders. He has also called for the two officially Palestinian territories—Gaza and the West Bank—to be united, potentially cutting the country in two.
The current round of attacks comes as the region experiences its worst period of turmoil since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. A new government in Egypt tied to the Muslim Brotherhood has destabilized the peace that has largely been in place since the Carter administration. Unrest in Syria is likewise creating a situation in which the security of Israel is severely threatened. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders are trying to make the whole thing look like Israel's fault.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshal suggested that the Israeli infantry mobilization on the border with Gaza, the New York Times reported Monday, was a bluff on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. "If you wanted to launch it, you would have done it," Mr. Meshal told reporters. He accused Israel of using the invasion threat as an attempt to "dictate its own terms and force us into silence."
"Rejecting Israel's contention that Hamas had precipitated the conflict, Mr. Meshal said the burden was on the Israelis. 'The demand of the people of Gaza is meeting their legitimate demands—for Israel to be restrained from its aggression, assassinations and invasions, and for the siege over Gaza to be ended,'" the Times said.
Surrounded by hostile neighbors, including those located within its own boundaries, Israel has shown remarkable restraint during the six days of missile attacks. Part of this is "real politick"—the government in Tel Aviv cannot be certain of the United States's support if it undertakes a military response. Part of this is a genuine desire to find a peaceful way out of a mess not of its own making in order to maintain its claim to the moral high ground.
Nevertheless, a military response is called for and excusable. The attacks emanating from Gaza are a stalking horse for those who believe that Israel does not have a right to exist and seek to wipe it from the map. This is the stated objective of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeated time and again. It is a sentiment likely shared by more than a few of the regions other leaders, even if they fear to say so publicly. The Obama administration, sadly, has been something less than vigorous in its support for our strongest ally in the area, and as a consequence, its enemies have been emboldened.
The whole thing will probably end badly, with Israel coming out on top from a military standpoint. When that happens it will be important for everyone, especially policymakers in Washington, to remember who started it all.