Israel pays the price for timidity
Attacks are the consequences of unilaterally ceding land to its sworn enemies.

Rabbi, president, Rabbinical Council of Orange County

Israel is the cause of the present crisis in the Middle East. For six months, missiles had rained down on the southern border town of Shederot, and little was done to mitigate the daily terror. Occasionally, the Israelis lobbed a few shells in retort or bombed a few buildings. The politicians held the army at bay, much to its dismay. The residents of Shederot protested, even closing off their city.

To all the noise from Shederot, Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres stated, "Kazams, Shazams, what's the big deal?" Finally, after the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and a missile attack on the city of Ashkelon, the Israeli army was given the green light.

Imagine if missiles were lobbed at San Diego for six months by a group of terrorists based in Tijuana, with San Diegans huddled in shelters day after day. How long would it take the U.S. Army to enter Mexico?

Israel's timid response all those months has emboldened Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Operating in tandem with the support of Iran and Syria, they have upped the ante.

And why not? It's clear in their minds that terror works. Read the campaign slogans of the most-recent election in Gaza. "We the Hamas drove out the Israelis." Palestinians agreed and elected Hamas with a mandate. The same thing happened in Lebanon, where Israel's retreat created a vacuum that was filled by Hezbollah, which also became part of the government.

Now, after these two unilateral withdrawals, hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the north and south are sleeping in bomb shelters. Israel's capitulation has brought terror to its borders and a Hamas-led government committed to Israel's destruction to its doorstep. Most of Israel's military leadership and many other Israelis opposed the Gaza withdrawal. They feared that Israel's security would be endangered and those nightmares have been realized.

Last summer the Palestinians could have seized the moment when Israel left Gaza. It could have become an oasis of democracy and economic growth and shown that peace was possible. This would have created momentum for further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and a resolution of the conflict

This is not what Hamas and Hezbollah want. It's not the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank that's bothering them. It's the existence of Israel that drives them to more violence. They elected Hamas and went down the road of terror.

Look in the classrooms of Palestinian schools in Gaza. Arab children are indoctrinated with hate and war from kindergarten onward. Their heroes are the suicide bombers, their role models the terrorists. A society shows its true intent with the dreams it implants in its children. In the schools of Gaza and the West Bank, the Arabs inculcate their kids with the dream of driving the Jews into the sea.

It is this very battle over the Israel's existence that the world and even Israelis have trouble comprehending. The annihilation of Israel to some seems to be fantasy. Commentators say such rhetoric is political posturing and just an opening position in negotiating. But Jews and Arabs have known each other for millennia. Since the Crusaders were driven out of the Holy Land, Jewish communities there lived under Arab rule. Expulsions and pogroms were commonplace. At best Jews where tolerated.

In the century since the advent of Zionism, things have been worse. Jews have attempted time and again to find a middle ground. Israel accepted partition over a half a century ago, and in the past decade the Oslo accords were supposed to usher in a new time of peace. Each time the Arabs refused to compromise. Now, 10 years after Oslo, we have a terrorist government at Israel's doorstep vowing to destroy the country.

There are no easy solutions. Israel has begun to wake up to the bitter reality of its mistakes. Further unilateral withdrawals will only encourage more terror. It must act decisively to stem the threat. Sadly, as Abba Eban said years ago, "The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Israel left Gaza. The Palestinians could have started their state in that area, creating jobs, health care, prosperity, peace and a springboard to a larger political entity. Instead they elected a government whose reason for being is the destruction of Israel. They would rather wage war.