The Israeli government, for the usual inscrutable reasons, declared a "unilateral" cease fire at 2 AM Israel time today.
This move was met with praise from the people who have been upset at Israel for the Gaza operation. The UN's Ban Ki-Moon said he was "relieved," the EU welcomed the announcement as did Condoleeza Rice.
It was not hard to predict what would happen next: Hamas and its associated terror groups ignored this confidence-building beginning of a "cycle of peace," and so far today 10 rockets have been fired from Gaza along with mortars.
So far, Israel has held its fire, with a couple of minor exceptions.
Will these "relieved" people now start to condemn Hamas for firing rockets? Or will they start pressuring Israel to withdraw from Gaza and go back to the good ol' days of being a sitting duck for Qassams?
The fact is that even those who "understand" Israel's right to defend itself cannot wrap their heads around the simple fact that civilian casualties cannot be avoided, especially when Hamas has made civilian casualties a centerpiece of its fighting strategy. They believe, whether they say it explicitly or not, that it is better for Israel to passively take Qassam rockets forever than for it to respond in an effective way.
And the last thing that they can possibly accept is that if Israel hadn't waited so long to respond there would have been fewer casualties. Likewise, the longer Israel waits to completely dismantle Hamas - which is inevitable - the worse it will be for Gazan civilians next time.
An entire generation of diplomats have grown up with the thought that military solutions can be postponed forever, or at least until they are out of office and it is someone else's problem. They have not grasped a fundamental truth - that delayed solutions are always much more expensive than timely ones.
Hamas cannot and will not moderate. No amount of wishful thinking and doublespeak can change that fact. Since its stated goal is the destruction of Israel, that means that there can only be two possible solutions: Hamas' destruction or Israel's.
Every time that an official from Kadima, the EU, US State Department or the UN says they want to avoid or cut short this war, they are really saying that they do not understand this basic truth. The longer it is avoided, the worse it will be - for everybody. Hamas will import bigger rockets with longer range; Iran will learn lessons from this operation and improve Hamas' fighting capabilities next time, and perhaps their own army will have effectively annexed Gaza if the world convinces Israel to "open its borders."
None of the people who are upset over the hundreds of civilian deaths have any plan, outside military, to avoid the inevitable "next time." And next time, there won't be only a thousand dead Gazans.
The only way to peace is to allow the IDF to destroy Hamas and its allies completely and thoroughly. Hamstringing Israel is the surest way to ensure many more deaths in the coming years. The very existence of these groups is the real threat to peace, and no amount of diplomacy can erase their implacable hate and obstinacy.
Even smart people have blind spots, and unless these diplomats are enlightened, they are partly responsible for the bloodbath that will inevitably follow their diplomatic "success."