This is the exact thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon wanted to avoid: The small passport photos, side by side, one row after another. Young, smiling faces, heart-rending in the faith and hope they convey.
And the names, like on an assembly line, moving in front of our eyes. Before we even become familiar with one name, another name comes along and another name and another one. And underneath, a few words summing up a brief life cut short at its beginning. And parents and families whose world has been shattered, and whose life will never be the same.
And the distress, the distress which descended upon the State of Israel on Sunday evening like a heavy blanket. That feeling we know so well from previous wars. "Here lie our bodies, a long long line. Our face has changed. Death is reflected in our eyes. We cannot breathe."
Netanyahu wanted to prevent these images. These and the ones coming from Gaza, which are being broadcast all over the world. Dozens dead, hundreds wounded, thousands of people deserting their homes and seeking shelter from the Israeli bombings and artillery fire. The images of despair of men, women and children, innocent people caught between Israel's fire and Hamas' fire.
The prime minister knew very well what was waiting on the other side of the Gaza Strip border. He certainly knew much more than all those people who have been sitting in television studios in the past two weeks and enthusiastically urging the government to conquer, bring down, destroy, take over.
And he probably knew a few more things, some of which we will learn later on and some of which we might never know, about Hamas' growing power, about its huge arsenal, about its abilities, about its fighters despair and endurance.
And he also knows a few things about us: About the IDF's preparedness for an operation of this kind. About the Israeli public's coping mechanism as we start counting the dead.
And from all the things he knew, Netanyahu must have had good reasons to delay the entry, to try to reach a truce, to offer calm for calm, to agree to a ceasefire, to be attentive to diplomatic initiatives.
If it were not for the demonstration Hamas gave us about the murderousness of the tunnels, we might not have launched a ground operation. One could say that Hamas provided us with the consensus required to go to war. I believe that the majority of the public realized that there was no other choice, that after what had been uncovered, it would be unthinkable to abandon the residents of the Gaza vicinity to their fate.
Netanyahu was right when he said Sunday that this is a justified war. Even those who are looking for diplomatic solutions, who are convinced that calm will only be reached through an agreement, understand that this time we cannot stand idly by.
On Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated the targets he had set on the eve of the operation. In the meantime, the operation has turned into a war, but the goals remain the same: A long-term calm and damaging infrastructures. No bringing down, no occupying, no destroying.
Those of us who are particularly perceptive may have detected realistic goals in regards to the continuation of the war as well. Destroying the tunnels, according to Ya'alon, will take two more days, maybe three. And after all, that was the goal of the ground invasion to begin with. In other words, if there is a ceasefire initiative Hamas agrees to look into, Israel will not reject it.
Judging from the discretion and caution which things have been managed with so far, it seems that Netanyahu and Ya'alon have no intention of spending even one unnecessary moment wallowing in the Gaza mud.
The war against Gaza has raised the question of the partner on the Palestinian side once again. Netanyahu did not deny Sunday that the talks he is holding in a bid to secure a ceasefire include talks with Mahmoud Abbas as well. It is becoming increasingly clear that not only is Abbas not the problem – he might even be the solution.
And if this war eventually generates the understanding that we do have a partner, this bloody price would not have been in vain.