The discovery of the three boys' bodies serves as a turning point for the State of Israel and the defense establishment. From an operational and public aspect, the first and critical stage of the search has been completed, changing the situation from a kidnapping incident to a terror attack.
The tragic ending, along with the escalation Hamas is leading to in the south, requires us to look towards the next stage – the response to the despicable murder and the rockets fired on Israel's southern communities.
Hamas is at its most significant low point in a long time these days. Egypt is rising against it and blocking its supplies from Sinai, the international community is renouncing it, and it is running out of financial resources. The Iranian support is gone too, and in the organization's distress, the regional reality – with ISIS's success at its center – serves as a sort of humiliation and stresses its grim situation.
Hamas mistakenly thinks that the IDF's operation following the abduction – alongside the assumption that Israel will avoid acting during the Ramadan – are the perfect timing for the third intifada Ismail Haniyeh promised. The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas is not Yasser Arafat's PA. Today's PA and the Palestinians civilians in the territories have a lot to lose from an intifada.
Despite all the grief and anger over the terrible attack, I doubt that it provides international legitimacy for a wide-scale operation in Gaza. The IDF already finished clearing the Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria during the search operation.
The Netanyahu government should not push for another military tactical punitive operation, but can – and should – turn to the political, strategic and diplomatic field. The goal is to disarm Hamas. The means is to succeed in getting the Western countries, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to join a widely-supported move.
Using the threat of a wide-scale military operation is the right thing to do, and so is gaining this kind of support in the next move – if necessary. In any situation, the State of Israel should announce that it is putting Hamas' military command and some of its political leadership in its crosshairs as part of a legitimate "payment" for an incident of this magnitude.
The Western world, which sees ISIS growing to huge dimensions in front of its eyes, does not need to be convinced why a similar organization, like Hamas, is jeopardizing the regional stability and must be destroyed.
Such a process will create two possible results: The first is success which will speed up Hamas' disarmament, like the partial success in disarming Syria from its chemical weapons.
Such a move may lead to a strategic change in the balance of power against Hamas. In any event, even if this achievement is not reached, an Israeli demand of this kind will increase the organization's distress.
The second result is gaining international legitimacy to use a firm hand against Hamas when necessary.
This way, Israel will score points and will not get dragged into a tactical escalation with limited accomplishments and lack of international legitimacy.
Major-General (res.) Israel Ziv served as head of the Operations Directorate branch in the IDF's General Staff.