I was on a solidarity trip to Sderot and the Gaza vicinity communities, when in one of the Qassam ridden kibbutzim I met Assaf – a local resident and a father of four. Two of his daughters, he said, were currently serving in the IDF, so when the Color Red alert sounds, he knows they are safe.
He listens to hear where the sounds of the exploding Qassam rockets come from – that way he knows which of his sons in the kibbutz to call and check on first.
The homes in his kibbutz are not fortified and he would like to see them be made so, at least for time being. He would rather see the problem solved in a different way, but that - he knows – is up to the politicians. For now – and as long as the rockets keep falling – they should have their homes fortified.
Onwards we go, to the Black Arrow Monument, dedicated to the heroic acts of the paratroopers in the 1950s; dedicated even more to the proactive policy dictated by David Ben Gurion for the young, nearly borderless, Israel, with its flaccid population and its barely existing army. The best defense is a good offence, the land must be processed to an inch of the border and we will not tolerate any attacks on Jews.
The determined Israel did not stand for any kind of attack on its citizens knew one thing for sure – it is not shelters that will protect Israeli citizens, but rather the fierce, all-out war against terror.
Looking down from the Nabia Meri Observation Point, with Gaza, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun laid out below us, we saw the smoking tails of two rockets making their way to Israel. One landed on their side. The other disappeared in the skies. Later we learned it landed in a kindergarten in one of the kibbutzim in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.
I can understand Assaf. The State has to provide him and his family with basic security; and if it can't – it must supply them with the proper fortification. But no sensible person can comprehend the gap between young Israel's aggressive policy and the weakness demonstrated by the strong, well-established Israel, 60 years later.
The truth, as big a paradox as it may sound to Assaf and his counterparts, is clear: A policy calling for fortification poses a risk for Israel's safety. With the exception of strategic facilities the likes of hospitals and schools, townships should not be fortified.
Fortification carries a destructive message, suggesting Israel is willing to stand for its citizens to be living under fire, cementing in world view a reality legitimizing terror organizations targeting civilians as a starting point for any negotiation.
Wanted: A conclusive end
We've brought this predicament on ourselves. From the moment we allowed populated area to be hit without launching an immediate response, making it abundantly clear we will not stand for it, the following has happened: Our enemies have concluded hurting Jews is allowed; our friends – and naturally our foes – around the world have come to the same conclusion; and worst of all – so have we.
Our own failure to respond has made us accustomed to the targeting of civilian populations, especially away from Tel Aviv. What other way is there to explain our measly response to the hundreds of Qassam rockets fired on the Gaza vicinity communities in the two-and-a-half years since the Gaza pullout?
Aerial Sharon made them a dramatic promise at the time: If even one rocket is fired, he said, Gaza will tremble and the world will understand. The only thing trembling so far, are kindergarten walls.
Olmert was right. We cannot fortify ourselves senseless. But he cannot reiterate that without providing kindergarten children with the proper defense and for the kindergarten walls to stop trembling he cannot avoid the decision to enter Gaza. Not because we want to, but because we have no other choice. We learned that lesson six years ago, when Operation Defensive Shield was forces on us, after months of upholding a "strength in restraint" policy and dozens of bloody terror attacks.
The terror ceased only when we raided its hubs in Jenin and Nablus. The only reason it is still emanating form Gaza is that we were hesitant to go in; and the more hesitant we are, the more resolved Hamas and Hizbullah get. They see Sderot as a test-case and unless crushed there, the next war will see the tens of thousands of missiles they have – and the thousands more they will undoubtedly get – launched at our larger cities right off the bat.
But a mass offence is not enough. Thing must have a conclusive end. Our response must be so disproportional the enemy would realize it's just not worth the effort. A conclusive end is a must simply because anyone firing on Sderot and Ashkelon already knows Ashdod, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv are within reach.
Our victory in the Gaza fort must be overwhelming not only for Assaf and his neighbors, for the grocers in Sderot, or for the Dichter family in Ashkelon. They must be defeated so that kindergarten walls in Tel Aviv will never tremble.
Uzi Landau is the founder of Eretz Nehederet, which leads weekly solidarity tours from Tel Aviv to Sderot