So, what is to be done? No matter where you start the story, the fact is that life on both sides of the border is unacceptable. Sderot, the easiest target for the Palestinian rocket shooters because it's a full-sized town almost next to the fence, was always a scruffy sort of town; last week the last large employer pulled out, following many others. I don't have the statistics - for all I know, no-one is complying them, for fear they'll be published and give satisfaction to the Palestinians - but the place is obviously coming apart. Again, although no-one will mention the fact, one reason for the low numbers of Israeli casualties is that there are fewer civilians there to be shot at - a damning statement on the inability of a sovereign state to defend the lives of its citizens.
The situation is Gaza is equally bleak. I'm not saying otherwise. Even in the probable case that some of the Palestinian hardship is staged or contrived - after all, someone has to decide if they ration electricity away from hospitals or away from party headquarters and training installations - only a fool would think the general populace is severely deprived of the amenities most of us take for granted.
And yet there are some mildly important distinction, it seems to me. The Hamas leadership are leveraging the situation so as to harm Israel, with nary a consideration if they could do anything on their own that might perhaps better the situation of their people. The worse things get, the more they screech. The useful fools run to oblige, obviously; my friend Juan, for example, goes so far as to explain that the present escalation is an Israeli plot to harm the Palestinians while the Americans are preoccupied with their primaries show. At the same time the Israelis, while not knowing how to defend thier own people, are agonizing about what they might possibly do, and no sooner do they try, they back away. This morning Haaretz reported that there were second thoughts about halting the supply of oil; by this evening Ehud Barak had already authorized a renewal of the supply of oil into Gaza.
Which brings us to the crucial distinction: That Israel is being shot at by Palestinian forces, while supplying the Palestinian populace directly with electricity and oil, all the while failing to protect its own people. The Palestinians could make the present crises go away with one small decision: stop the shooting.