The Gaza War

By Jeffrey Goldberg

If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

These aren't my words -- they're Barack Obama's. But I attach myself to this sentiment. Obama said this in July, after visiting the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Visits to Sderot will do that for you -- make you see things clearly. For what it's worth, this is how I see what's happening in Gaza: In 2005, the Israeli government acceded to the longstanding Arab demand to withdraw its settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip. Almost as soon as the Israeli withdrawal was completed, Hamas and other Islamist factions in Gaza began firing rockets at Israeli civilians living in towns and kibbutzim inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel. Sometimes -- and I've seen this with my own eyes -- Hamas rocketeers fired on Israel from atop the ruins of the abandoned Jewish settlements.

No country in the world could afford to ignore such attacks. And no country would. An elected government, such as Israel's, has a basic, overriding responsibility -- to protect its citizens from the organized violence of their enemies. Of course, it can do this in part by negotiating with its enemies (assuming its enemies recognize Israel's right to life) but its immediate mission must be to stop the violence, which is what Israel is now trying to do. Whether it succeeds or not is an open question (It is Hamas' indifference to Palestinian life, not Jewish life, that makes it a formidable foe, in the manner of Hezbollah) , but Israel must try to use all of the tools of national power to stop attacks on its citizens. Otherwise it is simply not a serious nation, one that does not deserve sovereignty.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2008/12/the-gaza-war/9264/