Imagine a siren that gives you 30 seconds to find shelter before a Kassam rocket falls from the sky and explodes, spraying its lethal shrapnel in all directions. Now imagine this happens day after day, month after month, year after year.
If you can imagine that, you can begin to understand the terror to which hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been subjected. Three years ago Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. And since that withdrawal, our civilians have been targeted by more than 6,000 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. In the face of this relentless bombardment, Israel has acted with a restraint that other countries, faced with a similar threat, would find hard to fathom. Israel's government has finally decided to respond.
For this action to succeed, we must first have moral clarity. There is no moral equivalence between Israel, a democracy which seeks peace and targets the terrorists, and Hamas, an Iranian-backed terror organization that seeks Israel's destruction and targets the innocent.
In launching precision strikes against Hamas rocket launchers, headquarters, weapons depots, smuggling tunnels and training camps, Israel is trying to minimize civilian casualties. But Hamas deliberately attacks Israeli civilians and deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians -- a double war crime. Responsible governments do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties, but they do not grant immunity to terrorists who use civilians as human shields.
The international community may occasionally condemn Hamas for putting Palestinian civilians in harm's way, but if it ultimately holds Israel responsible for the casualties that ensue, then Hamas and other terror organizations will employ this abominable tactic again and again.
The charge that Israel is using disproportionate force is equally baseless. Does proportionality demand that Israel fire 6,000 rockets indiscriminately back at Gaza? Does it demand an equal number of casualties on both sides? Using that logic, one would conclude that the United States employed disproportionate force against the Germans because 20 times as many Germans as Americans died in World War II.
In that same war, Britain responded to the firing of thousands of rockets on its population with the wholesale bombing of German cities. Israel's measured response to rocket fire on its cities has come in the form of surgical strikes. To further root out Hamas terrorists in a way that minimizes Palestinian civilian casualties, Israel's army is now engaged in a ground operation that places its soldiers in great peril. Carpet-bombing of Palestinian cities is not an option that any Israeli leader will entertain.
Only by defeating Hamas can we provide security for our people and hope for a future peace.
The goal of this mission should be clear: To end the current round of missile attacks and to remove the threat of such attacks in the future. The only cease-fire or diplomatic initiative that should be accepted is one that achieves this dual objective.
If our enemies assumed that the Israeli public would be divided on the eve of an election, they were wrong. When it comes to exercising our most basic right of self-defense, there is no opposition and no coalition. We stand united against Hamas because we know that only by defeating Hamas can we provide security for our people and hope for a future peace.
We fight to defend ourselves, but in so doing we are also fighting a fanatical ideology that seeks to reverse the course of history and throw the civilized world back into a new dark age. The struggle between militant Islam and modernity -- whether fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, India or Gaza -- will decide our common future. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.
This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.