Yet again, no good solutions for Israel

They’re on. No, they’re off. No, they’re on again.

Is it Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson or peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians? Well, it could be either — and both are actually of equal unimportance when one considers that rockets are now bursting in Ashkelon and no one at that negotiating table seems to be willing or able to do a thing about it.

If the world (and even the Israeli government, some would charge) could ignore the plight of rocket-ridden Sderot, a remote and dusty burg of not quite 20,000 souls, the same cannot be said for Ashkelon.

With 120,000 inhabitants, this is a sizable city on par with Berkeley or Santa Rosa and twice the size of Palo Alto. As rockets and, more lethally, missiles begin to tear into Ashkelon, only 11 miles north of Gaza, Israel’s hand will be forced.

And there are no good cards for Israel to play. If the Jewish state shows restraint, it will bleed away the lives of its citizens under a renewed attack from its messianic and genocidal opponents. And if it responds with force — as it did last week — it will trigger howls of protest from the international community, and, even worse, bolster Hamas’ popularity in the Arab world.

Like Hezbollah in 2006, Hamas’ leadership can claim anything short of a total annihilation at the hands of the Israeli military as a “victory” (and a one-sided Israeli rout won’t happen as long as Hamas continues to callously take refuge among innocent civilians).

The situation works perfectly for Hamas. The footage of lifeless women and children unearthed from piles of rubble makes for fantastic PR. And this week, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar all but brandished a beach towel-sized check for the cameras when he announced his junta would pay for any homes destroyed by Israel’s military.

Tragically, when it comes to providing a better life for the Palestinian people, Hamas has made things worse than ever. Yet as long as it can keep provoking Israel into military confrontations with terrorists conveniently firing from atop schools, hospitals and apartments, the organization’s popularity and clout will only be augmented.

Many painfully introspective panels and investigations have detailed Israel’s systematic failures in its 2006 war. At j. we do not fancy ourselves military strategists or savvy international power brokers. And yet it boggles the mind that with all of Israel’s analysis of its prior confrontation with rocket- and missile-firing jihadists, it did not foresee and establish a cohesive plan for the situation it now faces.

Let us hope such plans exist. And let us pray that, this time, they’ll work. n