Talk about a twist of fate. Watching the frightening scenes on television the other day as the green flag of Hamas was raised triumphantly over Gaza, I couldn't help but think back to the Israeli elections that took place 15 years ago this week.
Still reeling from the brutal terrorist murder of teenager Helena Rapp of Bat Yam, Israelis went to the polls on June 23, 1992, and voted for Yitzhak Rabin, thanks in large part to his promise to "take Gaza out of Tel Aviv."
Now, just a decade and a half later, Gaza is back, and with a vengeance. For far too long, Israel has been trying to run away from the Gaza problem, and that has gotten us nowhere. The time has come to stop fleeing and to face this threat head-on.
Indeed, thanks to the blundering of successive Israeli leaders, what was once just a thorny counterinsurgency problem has now become a full-blown strategic threat, as the rise of Hamastan before our very eyes makes abundantly clear.
The existence of a rogue, Taliban-style terrorist state along Israel's southern border is a recipe for disaster. If allowed to come to pass, the consequences will be felt far beyond the outskirts of Sderot and Ashkelon. Gaza will serve as a regional launching pad for terrorism, trouble and tribulation, and it will tempt the rest of our neighbors to think that the "liberation of Palestine" is near.
And if Hamas were to extend its rule to Judea and Samaria, it would place all of central Israel within striking distance of Muslim fanatics. It is therefore essential that Hamas's "experiment in Islamic rule" be shut down as quickly as possible, before the danger becomes even more pressing.
So let's finally shed our delusions that we can "take Gaza out of Tel Aviv," and let's just "take Gaza," once and for all.
Israel should reassert complete control over the area, topple the Palestinian Authority, arrest and try its leadership, and finally declare that this land is rightfully ours and we shall never again abandon it.
We should methodically uproot the terrorist infrastructure, and rebuild the rubble of Gush Katif and its once-thriving Jewish communities. In other words, take Gaza back, take all of it back, and don't ever give it up again.
LET'S BE honest: after 15 years of retreat, it is time to try something else. Those who preached concessions and withdrawal have been proven painfully wrong, again and again, and the people of Israel have suffered terribly for their shortsightedness and frailty.
The government needs to stop worrying about how Condoleezza Rice and Javier Solana will react, and start concerning itself a little more with the safety and security of its citizens. Leaving Gaza in the hands of Hamas and its supporters is simply not an option.
"But there is no military solution," shout the Left and much of the media, as Kassam rockets continue to slam into the Negev. "We must negotiate," they say, as the terror groups recruit Palestinian mothers with young children to serve as suicide bombers.
Pay them no heed. These are the same high priests of appeasement, after all, who got us into this mess in the first place. It was at their behest that Israel pulled out of Gaza nearly two years ago, expelling thousands of Jews from their homes and withdrawing the IDF. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan's famous 1980 query to Americans, "Are Israelis better off now than they were before the Gaza retreat?" It is evident that the answer is a resounding "no."
At the time, proponents of the move said it would wash Israel's hands of Gaza, strengthen Palestinian moderates and pull the rug out from under the extremists.
They were wrong. Dead wrong.
The pullout from Gaza has proven to be a disastrous mistake, one that has claimed numerous Israeli lives - and Palestinian ones, too.
So when the pundits and the talking heads now try to persuade us of the wisdom of supporting Fatah thugs against Hamas terrorists, or of inviting an international force into the area, let's just remember how effective their previous policy prescriptions turned out to be.
After all, it was the opponents of the pullout who have proven to be prescient. They predicted beforehand that an Israeli withdrawal would lead to a Hamas takeover in Gaza. That, of course, is precisely what has occurred. They warned that pulling the IDF out of Gaza would lead to intensified Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel, and that, too, has come to pass.
WE NEED not accept the present situation, nor should we. It is not too late to correct the error of withdrawal, and to declare at last an end to the delusions of reaching a false peace with those who seek our demise. So let's hit the collective rewind button, and take back control over the entire Gaza Strip.
Let the Left ridicule the idea of returning to Gaza as much as they please. They were wrong then and they are wrong now, and I'd rather be right and alive, than progressive and on the run.
What about the Palestinian population, you say? Sorry, but the Palestinians had their chance. They blew it. They could have had a state, they could have made a deal with Barak, with Peres, or with Rabin. But instead they chose the path of extremism and bloodshed. They have no one to blame but themselves for the outcome, and there is no reason why innocent Israelis should continue to pay the price for the Palestinians' ongoing obstructionism.
Will there be political and diplomatic fallout from an Israeli move into Gaza? For sure. The Europeans will spill their latt s when they hear the news, and the halls of the United Nations will echo with the drumbeat of outrage as the Jewish state is condemned for defending itself.
But as important as diplomacy is, it pales in comparison with protecting the lives of innocent Jewish men, women and children. When it comes to safeguarding the welfare of its citizens, Israel has no choice but to put aside all other considerations and to act to defend itself.
For no matter what Israel does, or does not do, the blame is inevitably hurled our way. So we might as well do what we must, and proudly raise the blue and white flag once again over the sand dunes of Gaza.
We should never have left in the first place, and the time has now come to return. Like it or not, the choice between Israel or Hamas ruling over the area really doesn't leave us with much choice at all.
So Gaza, here we come!