WASHINGTON -- The Israeli abandonment of Gaza is a withdrawal of despair. Unlike the Oslo concessions of 1993, there is not even the pretense of getting anything in return from the Palestinians. Nonetheless, unilateralism is both correct and necessary. Israel has no peace partner -- Mahmoud Abbas has nothing to offer and has offered nothing -- and in the absence of a partner, there is only one logical policy: rationalize your defensive lines and prepare for a long wait.
Gaza was simply a bridge too far: settlements too far-flung and small to justify the huge psychological and material cost of defending them. Pulling out of Gaza leaves behind the first truly independent Palestinian state -- uncontrolled and highly militant -- but one from which Israel is fenced off.
If Israel can complete its West Bank fence, it will have established a stable equilibrium and essentially abolished terrorism as a regular and reliable means of attack -- i.e., as a usable strategic weapon. That will leave the Palestinians a stark choice: remain in their state of miserable militancy with no prospects of victory, or finally accept the Jewish state and make a deal.
That is Israel's strategy. There are two problems with it: What about the rockets? What about the world?
The first problem is that while the fences do prevent terrorist infiltration, they do nothing about rockets. For months, Palestinians have been firing rockets from Gaza into towns within Israel proper. The attacks are momentarily in suspension, but with the enhanced ability to smuggle in weapons from Egypt and with no Israeli patrols looking for them, the attacks will resume and get far worse.
What to do? Something Israel should have done long ago: active and relentless deterrence. Israel should announce that henceforth, any rocket launched from Palestinian territory will immediately trigger a mechanically automatic response in which five Israeli rockets will be fired back. There will be no human intervention in the loop. Every Palestinian rocket landing in Israel will instantly trigger sensors and preset counter-launchers. Any Palestinian terrorist firing up a rocket will know that he is triggering six: one Palestinian and five Israeli.
Israel would decide how these five would be preprogrammed to respond. Perhaps three aimed at the launch site and vicinity, and two at a list of predetermined military and strategic assets of the Palestinian militias.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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