Will the world applaud Israel's just-announced decision to restrict its military forces by imposing even more stringent rules to avoid accidental civilian casualties? Don't bet on it. The world remained silent as Israel endured hundreds of Palestinian suicide bombers, stabbings, drive-by shootings, and kidnappings. No censure or demands for a cease-fire impeded Hezbollah in the north and Hamas from the south as they rained thousands of missiles on almost 40 percent of the Israeli population.
On the contrary. The common response of a world professedly eager for peace was to criticize Israel's measures of self-defense in setting up checkpoints and building a security fence along the West Bank. For six years, rockets from Gaza forced a major portion of Israel's southern population to sleep in bomb shelters. When Israel entered Gaza, after repeatedly warning Hamas to desist, the outcry revealed that the capacity of Israel's critics for hypocrisy is infinite. Every Israeli effort at self-defense is treated as aggression.
The multiple injustices of these years, compounded by the abysmal performance of the media in separating truth from propaganda, have produced a political transformation in Israel that the administration of President Obama has accelerated. Israelis have lost trust in the possibility of peaceful coexistence. They have observed that every effort to make peace breeds new aggression. They have realized, with understandable bitterness, that every defensive military operation that leaves the aggressor still in control of the attack base results only in the enemy being better prepared the next time.
It is not on the world's agenda to dream of doing anything, even to make a murmur of protest, when the Hamas leadership in Gaza continues to smuggle in rockets capable of threatening Tel Aviv. Rockets with a range increasing to as much as 60 kilometers can be fired from a mobile launcher fitted on the back of a truck, or from a stationary launcher hidden in a building, as was Hezbollah's in Lebanon.
How do the Israelis, without absolute control of the territory, prevent Hamas from turning into the Palestinian version of Hezbollah? Iran has supplied Hezbollah with more than 40,000 rockets, many of them long-range, such as Scud and M-600 missiles. The Israelis know that the gun or rocket that is hung on the wall in the first act will be fired in the third. They simply cannot tolerate living alongside an entity owning a terrorist infrastructure and hosting hostile military forces.
When the Israelis consider evacuating their military forces from the West Bank for the sake of a "two-state solution," they fear leaving another base for terrorism. If Hamas takes over the West Bank from the Palestine Liberation Organization, as it did Gaza, then it and other al Qaeda-type groups may well have access to the overlooks of Jerusalem's suburbs and Tel Aviv's beaches. The Israelis cannot forget that the last time Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received control of an area—namely Gaza in 2005—PLO forces ran away and left it to Hamas. Currently Israel's military freedom of operation in the West Bank allows the Israel Defense Forces to reach every place where prohibited arms are manufactured or hidden. Thus they have prevented terrorists there from manufacturing and launching them at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, not to mention intercepting innumerable suicide bombers.
The nightmare scenario for Israel is that the West Bank becomes another failed Palestinian state. The West Bank is as near as 8 to 12 miles from the Mediterranean. Any sustained rocket assaults from the West Bank would seriously threaten Israel's interior. What's more, there is the critical advantage of the West Bank's ridge line. From the higher terrain, even a Palestinian teenager with such simple weaponry as a Kassam rocket could hit Israel's main airport and major cities, making the defense of Israel impossible.
I have stood on that ridge. It is hard to explain to Americans how close everything is. That is why any Middle East settlement would require a fully demilitarized Palestinian entity and a method for Israel to verify that. International forces cannot be relied on for demilitarization. They have historically been unsuccessful where one party is ready to ignore the fulfillment of its international responsibilities. This has been especially so in the Middle East where the peacekeepers have been killed, breaking the political will of states who contribute.