The attempts by the Israel Defense Force to pressure the Palestinian leadership into, at the very least, releasing a kidnapped Israeli soldier, fit into the stereotype that most of the world still seems to think fits Israel.
With Israeli planes knocking out power plants and the (albeit empty) offices of the Hamas member who serves as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, the notion of the big, bad Israeli bully menacing the poor, suffering Palestinian victims is once again in circulation.
To any rational, fair-minded person, such a perception must seem insane, or at least, willfully perverse.
After all, Israel has spent much of the last 13 years making concessions and agreeing to peace plans — all of which center on giving up territory and empowering the Palestinians. Israel hasn't expected any gratitude, since had these efforts produced peace, Israelis would be the beneficiaries, too. But after the withdrawal from Gaza last summer, it did hope that the border with that independently governed area would, at the very least, be fairly quiet.
Those hopes were dashed almost immediately by the barrage of Kassam missiles that were launched from the evacuated areas at Israeli towns such as Sederot. The attacks have increased, and were topped late last month by a Hamas terrorist raid at an Israeli army post inside the 1967 borders that resulted in the murder of two Israelis and the kidnapping of a third, wounded soldier.
In response to Israel's demands to stop the rocket attacks and hand over the soldier, Palestinian leaders have played the same shell game they've always played. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tells us he has no power to do anything. The Palestinian prime minister — a member of Hamas, which has carried out these attacks — also says he can do nothing. Meanwhile, the so-called "militants" (as the media prefers to call them) repeatedly demand the release of terrorists and others held by Israel and by Egypt, which shares a shaky cold peace with the Jewish state.
When Israel's government rightly refuses to deal and instead demands that the soldier be set free immediately, they're painted as hard-hearted. And when it also rightly ramps up the pressure on the Palestinians through military means — while taking extraordinary measures to avoid injuring either civilians or even the guilty, such as the Hamas prime minister whose office was bombed only when no one was there — it's branded a bully whose friends, like U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, insist it act with "restraint."
We are well-aware that many otherwise innocent Palestinians are suffering along with everyone else as the stalemate grows ever more tense. But before the international press and governments around the world cry any more crocodile tears for them, they would do better to acknowledge that everyone, even the Palestinians, must take responsibility for their actions.
Palestinians have embraced terror and refused to take the Israeli "yes" for an answer to their plea for an independent state. They have elected murderers pledged to a war to the end against Israel's existence, and applauded as suicide bombers, rocket launches and cross-border raids rendered the peace process irrelevant.
Those who make such choices are in no position to complain about their plight. If the Palestinians are powerless, it's because they continue to hold on to the dream of Israel's eradication over the possibility of life alongside it. If they should ever change their minds, they'll find in Israel a willing peace partner. Until that time, the rest of us are uninterested in statements about Israel's justified countermeasures. Those who stirred the winds of terror must now face the whirlwind they have created.