Roughly 800 rockets had been fired into Israel by Gaza militants this year as of early November. After at least two official Israeli complaints to the United Nations Security Council and petitions to individual governments failed to bring international pressure to bear on Hamas, Israel had no choice but to take military action, says foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
“We can’t have them firing massively every two to three months without doing anything,” he says. “We did warn the international community that our patience was ending. We have waited, for too long maybe. And this time the army was prepared and … went to do battle.”
Operation Pillar of Defense began on Nov. 14 with the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza.
Gershon Baskin, who was involved in indirect cease-fire negotiations with Mr. Jabari up until his death, claimed in a New York Times Op-Ed last week that Israel made “grave and irresponsible strategic error” by assassinating the Hamas leader. He says the same key issues remain on the table now – though without the man who has helped keep Gaza's militants in check during recent rounds of truce negotiations.
Israel is seeking an immediate cease-fire, to be followed within several days with terms that ensure that that cease-fire will be long-term. Press reports mention a duration of as long as 15 years. Israel also seeks terms that Hamas will not be able to build up its capabilities during that period of quiet, says Dr. Baskin, a veteran negotiator and co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.