Why no full-scale war this time? One new factor may have made all the difference: Israel's new anti-missile missile system callled Iron Dome, which prevented scores of rockets from reaching its most heavily populated cities -- like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If just one of those randomly fired rockets had wiped out an apartment building or school or shopping mall or bus terminal full of people, no Israeli leader might have withstood the public demand for vengeance on the full scale of war.
This administration, whatever the bad feelings between our president and current Israeli prime minister, fully supported the development and deployment of that new and welcome defense, another vindication of Ronald Reagan's old dream of an anti-missile missile, aka Star Wars. (Remember when he was ridiculed for suggesting such a sci-fi fantasy by those who thought they knew better than that "amiable dunce," as a Democratic warhorse named Clark Clifford once called him?)
Now let us celebrate this peace, however uncertain -- and in the future take all that rhetoric about wiping Israel off the map, whether from Gaza or Tehran, more seriously in the future, and denounce it at once and in no uncertain terms, for words lead to deeds, including criminal ones.
At the same time, the Israelis need to celebrate their victory ever so quietly, and find some way to appease the source of so many wars -- wounded Arab pride bent on revenge. Now would be the time for Israel not just to talk peace -- Jerusalem has long advocated direct negotiations without preconditions -- but to offer concessions. A further easing of the blockade around Gaza, maybe another temporary freeze on Israeli settlements, whatever gestures can be made short of endangering the Jewish state's now re-established security. Not just war but the pursuit of peace demands imagination, energy and new initiatives.
If the Israelis are looking for a policy just now, they could do worse than follow the lead of an American president who learned the ways of both war and peace by bitter experience, and pursued both "with malice toward none, charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right...."
Many of us have feared the worst. Now let us hope, and not just hope but work, for the best.