The latest terrorist attack...may easily have resulted in a far greater number of casualties, but the ongoing barrage of missiles threatens to broaden into a much wider conflict.
Emboldened by the overthrow of Mubarak and empowered by the flow of arms across the Egyptian borders, the jihadists are testing our mettle. Hamas also succeeded in intensifying hostility between us and the new Egyptian regime.
In the days and weeks ahead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be facing some difficult decisions. While his initial response to the attacks - the deadliest since he assumed office - cannot be faulted, his boast that terrorism would always be contained under his watch will now be put to the test.
Israel's will to react firmly to this provocation will signal whether we retain the ability to deter Hamas from future attacks.
The Sinai Peninsula is rapidly becoming a scorpion's den for radical Islamists, including Al Qaida-inspired factions. The border with Egypt, which had been relatively stable, is now clearly porous, and represents a new entry point for terrorists who now move freely from Gaza to Sinai. The extent of the disastrous decision of the Sharon government to cede control of the Philadelphi Corridor can only now be understood. The IDF is therefore investing major additional resources to beef up the IDF presence and construct a 200-km security fence on the Egyptian border.
If we exercise genuine deterrence, we will undoubtedly face additional global pressure. After receiving ritualistic condolences, we are already being urged to display restraint. When Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon (a rotating member of the UN Security Council) prevented a condemnation of the most recent terrorist attacks, the UN Security Council even dispensed with condemning the outrage.
More significantly, we are also likely to find ourselves at total loggerheads with the Obama Administration. The enormous - but fortunately unsuccessful - efforts exerted by the Americans to force us to make a groveling apology to Turkey over the flotilla reflects the extent the current Administration is willing to humiliate its closest allies to appease the Islamists. Now we may soon encounter threats to withhold the US veto on Palestinian statehood at the UN unless we display "restraint" - a code word for not exercising genuine deterrence.
But even if most of the world, including the hypocritical and sanctimonious Europeans, condemn us for responding in a "disproportionate" manner, the security of our citizens must remain our priority.
DEFENSE MINISTER Ehud Barak, with his consistent record of making empty threats in the wake of terrorist incidents, will undoubtedly seek to persuade the Prime Minister to act with "restraint." Our delusionary Left will also urge us not to "force Hamas into a corner."
Should Prime Minister Netanyahu succumb to these pressures, we will undoubtedly again undergo a cycle of lethal attacks met by hollow threats, which would inevitably be followed by increased terror, until our lives become unbearable, and we are once more obliged to launch a war to defend our citizens.
Tough and immediate military responses are thus required to deter future attacks.
Hamas leaders must be made aware that for failing to rein in the terror, their own political/military leaders will be targeted for assassination.
We must do more than weep for our victims. Israel should have no inhibitions in depicting our murderous enemies as barbarians, and drawing attention to the spontaneous public celebrations in areas under PA and Hamas jurisdiction every time there's news of an Israeli being murdered. And when spokesmen for our "peace partner," like senior PA official Nabil Shaath, issue press releases condemning us for committing "war crimes" by responding to the murders, Israel should demand that the US condemn such statements and extract an apology.
We must make the American people and Congress understand that deterrence is defense, not revenge, and that irrespective of the negative political repercussions, our government must protect its citizens. This should also be an opportune time to draw the attention of the American people to the implications for Israel of the "Arab Spring," and the consequences if we give in to President Obama's pressure, accept the 1949 armistice lines with swaps, and subsequently find ourselves surrounded by Hamastan and jihadists.
INDEED, WITH the impending Egyptian elections in which the genocidal Muslim Brotherhood - creators of Hamas - will emerge as a highly influential force, prospects for border stability will become even shakier. Israel's fraying relationship with Egypt, and the explosive atmosphere over the terrorist attack reflect the rising influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian army will of course seek to maintain the immense subsidies it receives from the US. But unless the Administration threatens to suspend payments, the Egyptian army is likely to simply stand aside and give the Jihadists a free hand, as long as they concentrate their attacks on Israel. Regrettably, the Obama Administration hardly has a positive track record of acting appropriately in this climate. But Congress could assume an important role.
There is a genuine risk that tough responses by us may lead to greater regional turbulence. But the alternative - not exercising deterrence - will most certainly erode our security if the Jihadists are able to continue their terror attacks and launch missiles against our citizens with impunity. Our lives would become unbearable and we would once again be forced into a full-blown conflict.