July 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

OUR EDITORIAL

Editorial: Let Israel finish its mission in Gaza

A premature cease-fire that rewards Hamas for its terrorism will assure the cycle of violence will continue

Israel has struck at vital resources in Gaza to weaken Hamas' resolve. (Hatem Moussa / AP)

The Obama administration is increasing pressure on Israel to end its military excursion into Gaza, as casualties on both sides mount. But while an end to the death and bombing is a vital goal, Israel should not be asked to accept a ceasefire at any cost.

It should be evident by now that the Hamas terrorists, who have continued firing their rockets at Israel through two temporary ceasefires, will not halt the violence without winning substantial concessions.

Granting Hamasí terms would be a destructive decision for Israel, and the White House should recognize the harm such an agreement would do.

Hamas continues to cyclically attack Israeli civilians precisely because past eruptions have ended with cease-fires that rewarded its terrorism. Israel is determined this time to end Hamasí war-making capabilities by destroying its rocket supplies, launch sites and the tunnels it uses to enter Israel.

Thatís a reasonable and defensible mission. As long as Hamas is armed, Israel is at risk and turmoil will persist in the region. President Barack Obama has repeatedly affirmed Israelís right to defend itself; the incursion into Gaza is what exercising that right looks like.

Easing access to Gaza without demilitarizing the territory would be a blunder. Past attempts to open the territory resulted in Hamas bringing in the materials to build its tunnels and rockets. As long as Hamas remains in control of Gaza, that will be the pattern.

Part of the problem facing the White House is that it doesnít know who to talk to on the Gaza side. While Secretary of State John Kerry is in ongoing and often testy discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, heís been left to deal on the other side with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian leaders. But neither Abbas nor Egypt have much influence on Gaza.

In a blunder that enraged the Israelis and made other U.S. allies in the region nervous, Kerry turned last weekend toward Qatar and Turkey. Qatar is the financial backer of Hamas and provides safe haven to its leaders. Turkey, under Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, is overtly hostile to Israel.

Notice the muted response to the Gaza incursion from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even the Palestinian Authority. All share Israelís objective of weakening the Hamas terrorist, even if they canít openly endorse its methods.

The objectives of the Obama administration seem to reach no further than quickly stopping the violence. The U.S. wants Israel to believe that once the cease-fire is in place, talks can resume toward a broader and permanent peace.

Israel has no reason to believe the White House can deliver on such a promise. Kerry devoted considerable energy earlier this year toward bringing the two sides together for talks, and failed miserably.

What Israel needs now from the United States is the time to complete its mission of neutralizing Hamas as a military force.

That may be painful for the world to watch, but right now it is the only visible route toward a long-term end to the violence.