There are two ways to judge the success of Operation Pillar of Defense: point-by-point and overall. The opening move of the operation was expertly executed. Intelligence, planning, command and control; the Israel Defense Forces and the other branches of the security establishment deserve a very high grade. The cooperation among the IDF General Staff, Military Intelligence (including the operations branch and the research branch), the Southern Command, the Israel Air Force and the Shin Bet has been very successful so far.

But this view of reality, although essential, is very narrow. The plan devised by Serbian intelligence to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, as carried out by Gavrilo Princip, was perfectly executed. It was just what followed - World War I and the fall of the old order - that was less expected. The operation was a success but the world died.

Israel avoids thorough solutions. It only wants to gain time and then waste it. This time, too, like the last time, four years ago, Israel did not take the gun to Hamas & Co., but only the ammunition clip. When the declared objective is quiet, without taking advantage of that quiet to make progress, the enemy comes back stronger than before and can shoot further. In every operation, Israel acts to reset the meter to zero, until the next operation, when the price is higher.

The significance of rockets fired on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem should not be underestimated. Since 1948, no Arab country, except Iraq in 1991, has managed or dared to do what Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have done. Other than the Jordanian Long Tom shell fired at Masaryk Square in Tel Aviv in the Six-Day War, and despite the city's vulnerability to air and artillery attacks, Tel Aviv, symbol of the Jewish state, has remained untouched. And now, the Palestinians are able to do what Nasser wanted and Saddam Hussein did. The Palestinians have overcome their isolation and inferiority and did well to depend on their alliance with the Iranians, the Syrians and the Lebanese. In the tournament against Israel, they broke even the 2006 record of Hezbollah, which reached only as far as Hadera.

It is not important whether a rocket lands in the sea or in Bat Yam, in a park or in Ramat Gan. What is important, psychologically, is that the imaginary barrier has been breached, and in a war of attrition, psychology is considered very important, especially in a population hovering between hope and despair. To the extremist Palestinians and their supporters there is, therefore, something to hope for: increased accuracy, upgraded weapons systems, more deadly warheads and even perhaps chemical and biological weapons. [all the more reason for the Gaza operation, then, and all the more reason to take action sooner, and not after thousands of rockets have been fired]

The extension of rocket fire to area codes 02 and 03, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in IDF jargon, breaches a boundary and requires new responses. More Iron Dome batteries, another slice of the defense budget (or increasing dependence on American aid ) and, until plans are ready, more difficult decisions as to which citizens to favor and which to abandon.

Military action against the hostile organizations and their commanders is correct, but futile, as long as it is detached from the broader context of a national goal. Israel is fleeing from the necessity to define for itself where it wants to go. Therefore it moves in exhausting circles that bring it back to where it started.

"Kandil's deal" - the compromise proposed by Egyptian Prime Minister Hashem Kandil, who visited Gaza on Friday, has not yet been implemented, but it is a step in the right direction. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's visit on Tuesday should be exploited. And perhaps we should even dare to aspire further, to a new version of the Camp David summit, hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, with the participation of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, King Abdullah of Jordan (if his regime survives until then ), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister, but only if a statesman with vision and daring is elected to that office.

The missiles of Desert Storm and the American operation in Iraq in 1991 pushed a Likud prime minister to the Madrid conference, and he was subsequently voted out of office. If the rockets of Operation Pillar of Defense have a similar outcome, diplomatically and politically, something good will have come out of a bad situation. [in other words, getting rid of Netanyahu is what counts for this writer -- but of course Netanyahu will be voted in, and many of those voting for him will do so having realized that he's been essentially right all along, that what counts is not "truce treaties" modelled on Hudaibiyya, but deterrence. It is only deterrence that keeps Israel alive, and only deterrence that will continue to do so. And the operation in Gaza  is not a failure of policy, but spells an end to failed policies: no more nonsensical tolerating buildups of missiles, in the south, or in the north, and no more nonsense about accomodating Israel to "new realities" that are not, that never are, immutable but can be molded by intelligent policies based on realism about Islam, and those who take Islam to heart]