The huge effort invested by the Shin Bet and IDF on the ground was aimed at ending this affair, resolving the uncertainty among the families and the public, and of course pulling the murderers out of their hiding place and punishing anyone who was involved in this horrifying act of terror.
The question was not what would be discovered – but when and where. Since no one was surprised, everyone had enough time to form an opinion on what should be said and done following the discovery. None of them can say on the crucial day that they acted out of a storm of emotions, that they were shocked, that the shock made them lose their minds.
The dilemma has been placed on the table of the prime minister and the cabinet ministers. Their job is to make decisions which will meet different and sometimes contradicting interests. There is no reason to envy them.
I hope that the first thing on their mind is dealing with the external enemy and only then the internal pressures. Israel must continue hitting Hamas: It’s important for deterrence, important for security and important for the future of our relations with the Palestinian Authority.
But it must be done in a rational way and in surgical means. Arresting people – those released in the Shalit deal who have yet to be arrested, for example – but letting the population live its life. Comprehensive moves and collective punishment may push the West Bank population into Hamas' arms and lead to the expansion of terror instead of thwarting it.
The state's interest right now is to create a distinction between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas. He is firmly distinguishing himself without us, but we can help. The impulse is to unite all the Palestinians, without any distinction, as if they were one entity.
Senior officials who are very familiar with the Palestinians say that the wide public admired the kidnapping, maybe even the murder as well, but stayed away from its perpetrators. They admire Hamas for its daring and hate it for destroying their Ramadan. A shortsighted Israeli government will wrap them all in one bundle; a smart government will distinguish between them.
The prime minister and his ministers hear the voices from the communities the families live in, from their parties' activists, from the street, and feel the need to answer these voices too. They are afraid that if they won’t decide on a firm, loud, immediate operation, groups in the Israeli right will launch their own acts of revenge. We were in this saga in the 1980s, with the Jewish underground. The urges are the same urges; the dangers are the same dangers.
The Shin Bet must prepare for such a possibility now, alongside its preparedness for capturing the murderers. But from rightist ministers' point of view, the Shin Ben is not enough: The government must prove to its voters that it is avenging their revenge.
The incitement in the street comes and goes. The politicians don’t have to pay a price for it in irrational decisions. Nonetheless, the prime minister and his ministers sense the state of mind on the street. They are afraid to be portrayed as helpless, as too responsible, as suckers of the Hamas enemy. The fear is an unwise advisor.
The Bayit Yehudi party leaders are also seeking an all-out war in the territories, a war which will first of all endanger their voters, as well as a "proper Zionist response" – massive construction in Judea and Samaria. They want blood. It’s easy for them to do that when the responsibility is not placed on their shoulders.
They are depending on the West's preoccupation with the takeover of parts of Iraq and Syria by Sunni terror organizations, which may soon take over parts of Jordan as well. True, that's what the West is preoccupied with. But they are blind to the damage the settlements are causing to the Israeli economy and to Israel's status in the West world. Proper Zionist responses of this kind are not Zionist and proper only in Israel.