The Qassam brigades in Gaza seem to be on strike. The main reason for this is that the price of firing rockets into Israel has gone up dramatically.
The intifada years taught us our efforts to "etch" messages into the Palestinian consciousness were for naught. Many people predicted disengagement would erase what little we managed to "teach."
So why have we succeeded, where we have failed so many times before?
The explanation is that now, the message that we will respond to fire with fire, has been delivered with action, not words. We will not be dissuaded by densely packed civilian areas. It works.
This change in our behavior stems from an approach that sees the Gaza Strip as quasi-country now.
Like any country, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the behavior of its residents. The world understands this approach because it is so simple.
A nation must have sovereignty over a defined area, and all countries would respond to rocket fire without worrying too much about pinpointing the actual mortar crews, as opposed to the civilian population that gives them cover.
This is one of the benefits of a border: An occupying power must distinguish between innocent civilians and hostile ones; between masked men bearing arms and open-faced ones; between motor mechanics and missile mechanics; between "ticking bombs" and sleeping ones.
Now, because we are not occupiers, we have freedom of action. If we are attacked, everyone on this side of the border is one of us, and everyone on the other side is one of them. If innocent people are harmed, we might well be sorry, but we will bear no responsibility.
The Palestinian civilian population understands this, as does Hamas.
Neighbor vs. neighbors
This shift can be understood against the rejection of the “human shield” policy (known as “Neighbor policy”) by the High Court of Justice. The policy was premised one the weak assumption that we are not fighting individuals, but rather the collective, and therefore a Palestinians holds responsibility for the behavior of his neighbor.
This policy was rejected by the Supreme Court, on grounds that as long as Israel controlled the area, it was responsible to treat Palestinians as individuals and to protect innocent civilians.
This no longer holds true in Gaza. The policy of collective responsibility is valid when two nations that share a common border go to war. "Neighbor policy" is out, but "Neighbors policy" is legitimate.
Now, just imagine what would happen if we also had a real West Bank border. A recognized, undisputed, established border, a border that set both limits and enough contiguous territory for the Palestinians to live their lives. Us here, them there.
The well-being of Palestinian civilians would be inextricably tied up with the well-being of Israeli civilians. Their government, whatever it is like, would be responsible for the actions of the people living in its territory.
No need for us to search for a needle in a haystack; that will be the Palestinians' responsibility. If they want help, we'll give it.
And if not, to paraphrase Yasser Arafat’s famous quote, they can go drink the seawater off Gaza.