The missile attack "undermines any chance of the cease-fire with the Palestinians that the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon claims it wants," charged a Washington Post editorial entitled "Israel's Escalation." "Sharon has now escalated Israeli attacks from targeting alleged Palestinian bomb makers and street fighters to their political leaders."
The claim that the Hamas leadership is "political" is false. In the Arab world in general, and particularly among radical Islamic groups like Hamas, there is little separation between the religious, political and military divisions.
Hamas is officially classified by the State Department as a "terrorist" organization. The department's description of Hamas does not differentiate between the goals of the military and political arms: "Various Hamas elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel."
Hamas has never accepted any cease-fire with Israel. Hamas and other Palestinians have never ceased shooting at motorists, the mortar shelling of Israeli communities, or the planting of anti-personnel bombs on Israel's streets.
The Hamas leaders targeted by Israel were responsible for terrorist bombs that killed 37 Israelis and wounded more than 370 in the last nine months, including the gruesome carnage at the Tel Aviv disco. And for every "successful" terrorist bomb, there were many more that were intercepted or exploded miraculously without injuring civilians.
Two Palestinian children died in Israel's raid against the Hamas commanders. That is truly regrettable, and Israel's leaders expressed sorrow over their deaths. However, as Hamas plans more carnage like the Tel Aviv disco bombing that killed 22 Israeli teens, it makes sense that removing the terrorist threat means in the long run fewer innocent children will die.
Did Israel use excessive force? Excellent insight comes from an American military officer reflecting on the 1989 American invasion of Panama. "The lessons I absorbed from Panama confirmed all my convictions over the preceding 20 years, since the days of doubt over Vietnam. Have a clear political objective and stick to it. Use all the force necessary and do not apologize for going in big if that is what it takes. Decisive force ends wars quickly and in the long run saves lives."
The author, of course, is Colin Powell, writing in his autobiography, "My American Journey," page 421.
An important axiom bears repeating: When fighting terrorists, there is no such thing as "excessive force." Ronald Reagan followed this principle in attacking Libya in 1986 after a terrorist bombing killed Americans in a Berlin disco. Colin Powell followed this principle in the 1989 American incursion into Panama. And Bill Clinton struck hard against Bin Laden's infrastructure after the bombings of American embassies in Africa on August 8, 1998 -- now nearing its third anniversary.
Israel must continue to protect its citizens, despite the condemnations. When Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, the condemnations were swift and harsh. But as history vindicated Israel for its actions back then, it will undoubtedly do so again in the fight against Hamas terror.
Several newspapers followed The Washington Post editorial line. But breaking from the pack, the Chicago Sun Times proclaimed in an editorial entitled, "Don't knock it; U.S. may try it":
"The State Department condemned the Israelis. It's hard to understand why... What Foggy Bottom seems to be saying is that the Israelis should, essentially, do nothing. But there can be no time-out in the war on terrorism. Groups committed to the destruction of Israel boast that they have suicide bombers ready to act. Israel cannot sit by in hopes of foiling an attack at the last minute."
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