The IDF operation got underway in order to bring about an improved lull, which will gradually dissipate, until the next round of fighting; no more than that, and no less. Monday night’s rocket hits were part of the scenario. They should not be panicking the country, just like the effective Air Force bombardment in the first two days should not have prompted euphoria.
As the attacks from Gaza continue and become more intense, and as the Air Force runs out of targets to hit, we can reasonably assume that a ground operation will follow. Yet it is uncertain whether this too will curb the rocket fire.
The thing that will put an end to the fire is a renewed understanding between Israel and Hamas via Egyptian mediation.
At the end of this clash – Defense Minister Ehud Barak refuses to refer to it as “war” – we may see slight improvement in the monitoring of smuggling tunnels on the Egyptian side, with the aid of American equipment. The smuggling of arms will continue. So will the rocket attacks from Gaza, on occasion.
Every time one of our ministers presents an absolute cessation of rocket fire as an objective, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi cuts in and protests. On this front, Barak backs Ashkenazi.
The question of whether Israel needs to reconcile itself to this reality of a semi-fictitious lull, which invites the next clash, is controversial. Barak believes it does, and relies on former Prime Ministers Ben-Gurion and Sharon. Yet I’m not sure he interprets them correctly, or that he correctly interprets the military buildup in Gaza.
The Grad rockets that landed in Ashdod and Yavne Monday night do not only signal a greater firing range, but also a greater quantity of explosives. Qassam rockets kill only in rare cases. Grads, meanwhile, definitely kill. Yet there were no Grads in Gaza until a few months ago.
So no, this will not be a one-time blow that resolves the problem. What we’ll se is a blow, to be continued. Yet at these kinds of junctions it would be good to think about the link between cost and benefit.
In the “Winter Rains” operation almost a year ago, the IDF killed 130 Hamas members and prompted the organization to agree to rules of the game that entailed a semi-lull. In operation “Cast Lead,” the State of Israel invests more, and sustains more hits. Therefore, we are allowed to expect more.