Israel has an extraordinary opportunity that may not last. It can protect its citizens from retaliation for the time being. Its right to self-defense is so obvious that Western governments usually hostile to Israeli interests must affirm its right to self-defense. Even the German Left Party (“die Linke”) is split, with some of its leaders attending pro-Israel rallies while others join the largely Muslim demonstrators chanting “Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, Komm heraus und kaempf allein” (“Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone”). It has the tacit (and sometimes not entirely tacit) support of Egypt, not to mention the Gulf states, in its war against Hamas. But it cannot afford a repeat of 2012, after which Hamas rebuilt its weapons capability. Where Hezbollah is concerned, the Chinese proverb applies: Kill the chicken while the monkey watches. The reduction of Hamas has to serve as a deterrent for Hezbollah and Syria, not to mention Iran.
Israel’s leaders know this well, and outsiders should be cautious about offering tactical advice. But Israel’s friends must be clear that a “pinpoint operation,” as Secretary of State Kerry demanded inadvertently before an open microphone last weekend, does not serve Israel’s urgent interests. Hamas must be rooted out in depth.