It’s easy to see the twisted strategy behind the fusillade of rockets directed at Israel: Militants in Gaza are trying to burnish their credentials as leaders of the resistance. They provoked Israeli retaliation. Civilians are paying the price. It’s a devastating, all-too-familiar pattern.
But this time, the rockets are more powerful, killing three Israeli civilians last Thursday. And there are signs that Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, feels confident that its allies who have taken power in the Arab Spring will rally to its side. In this battle, Hamas is the aggressor. Israel is the victim. But in the cruel logic of Mideast politics, Israel will be safer and more secure by exercising wisdom and restraint. The Israeli response should be tough enough to send a message to those involved in the rocket attacks, but proportionate enough to ensure that Hamas can’t claim the moral high ground. The deaths of nine members of a Palestinian family in an Israeli rocket attack on Sunday, which is being investigated by the Israeli military, is a sign of how quickly, and seemingly accidentally, the moral ground can shift in a violent exchange such as this one.