July 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Column: This time, let Israel finish job

Police keep right-wing supporters of Israel separated from left-wing protesters during a rally held by the left-wing calling for an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for a ceasefire of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Saturday in Tel Aviv, Israel. The protest was held while Hamas fired rockets from the Gaza strip towards Tel Aviv, and despite missile sirens going off, the protesters continued to clash. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

The play-by-play for Israeli-Palestinian eruptions is so well-worn that it’s become formulaic.

Hamas terrorists in Gaza find an excuse to escalate their daily rocket attacks against settlements and towns in Israel, forcing Israel to the breaking point of its patience for random assaults on its citizenry.

Israel responds with air strikes against the rocket launch sites, which the Palestinians shield with civilians, including children. Cameras turn away from the smoldering remnants of rockets that fell on Israel and toward wailing Palestinians toting the bodies of their dead through the streets.

Hamas uses the retaliation as an excuse to fire even more missiles at even larger targets. Meanwhile, world leaders, including those in Washington, urge both sides to stand down, as if both sides were the provocateur. In any case, neither side does.

At some point, Israel decides the only way to end its torment is to send ground troops sweeping through Gaza to root out the terrorists one by one.

More innocent Palestinians are piled on the heap of dead bodies, and the world condemnation of Israel for committing “war crimes” becomes deafening.

Finally, Israel can withstand the withering rebuke no longer, and pulls back from Gaza well short of finishing its work.

Hamas claims its survival as a victory, basks in the damage it’s done to Israel’s reputation, then begins rebuilding its rocket stash to resume a cycle that plays out roughly every three years.

And it will continue to do so until Israel is allowed to smash Hamas for good.

As long as the terrorist group is given de facto protection by world leaders who would not tolerate a similar hostile attack on their sovereign nations, nothing will change in this conflict.

There will not be peace — terrorists have no credibility at the peace table. There won’t be stability for the Palestinians — Hamas depends on endless turmoil to maintain its franchise in Gaza.

And there won’t be an end to the maddening violence that makes life unbearable in both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

This time, the Israelis should break Hamas to pieces, destroy its ability to threaten Israeli civilians and bust its grip on Gaza, and for better or worse return the strip to control of the Palestinian Authority.

Whatever collateral damage occurs in the process, any and all civilian casualties should be charged to Hamas’ account, and not to Israel’s.

In the long run, the Palestinians will be better off with Hamas gone, as will Israel and everyone else with a stake in the Middle East, including the United States.

Hamas has again provoked Israel, fully confident other nations will restrain the Israeli response. But what if they didn’t this time? Or what if Israel ignored the hand-wringing from Washington and the finger-pointing from Europe and claimed its right to self-defense?

It could exploit this opportunity to finally rid itself of a pestilence that wouldn’t be allowed to survive in the shadow of any other nation in the world that had the capability of destroying it.

Israel has that capability, and should use it.

nfinley@detroitnews.com
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