Israel lost the war in Gaza: she agreed to Hamas’ pre-war demands that the crossings be opened, accepted Hamas’ empty promise to stop rocket launches, and agreed to exchange more than a thousand Palestinian terrorist prisoners for an unfortunate IDF corporal. Was there an alternative? Most definitely.

Israel lost the war when she signaled to common Palestinians that they won’t be targeted. Collateral damage amounted to less than 0.5 percent of the population. The rest were safe and were promptly paid compensation for their destroyed property—with Israeli tax transfers. Under such conditions, Gazans have no reason to withdraw their support for Hamas. Most guerrillas escaped unscathed too, even though IDF knew their—or at least their families’—locations.

The recipe for a successful anti-guerrilla campaign is well-known: exceptional violence. Anyone with the remotest connection to the guerrillas should be a legitimate target, and not just for shooting but for much more horrible modes of death. Russians in Chechnya did not mind shooting at any aggressive-behaving villager; some Chechens were thus prompted into the fighting, but most chose to change their expressions. Now, that is definitely neither nice nor legal, but it is efficient.

Counter-terror is just that, a terror against terrorists, or rather their support base. In the long run, counter-terror offers no solution: modern armies can rarely sustain excessive cruelty over long periods. Popular expectations of cruelty increase while the cruelty decreases, and terrorist supporters are emboldened by the perceived lack of cruelty.

Whatever the Israeli Supreme Court says, Arab human shields and family punishments are standard military measures and IDF can continue them without moral damage. They are insufficient: short of burning the villages along with their inhabitants, punishment-raids cannot succeed; in the current situation, Israel lacks that option. Short of the raids, we can do exhaustive police work, close all communal institutions (including universities and media), and expel all Palestinian opinion-makers from teacher activists up. That would pacify the hostile territory. But the only long-term solution, and the least painful one, is the one Machiavelli suggested to all conquerors: expel and disperse the hostile population. Only with the Palestinians gone could the Jews go on with their lives.

Incidentally, the transfer would also benefit the Gazans. A million and a half people cannot develop economically on a tiny strip of desert; certainly not these fourth-generation refugees who lack even the meager skills of the West Bank Arabs. Foreign Arabs want that criminal mass to stay in Gaza rather than inundate Muslim countries; not the least, foreign Arabs use Gazans to trouble Israel. Once they have been expelled to Lebanon, Gazans can leave the refugee camps and build normal lives. Many would prefer to stay in the refugee camps on UNRWA’s lifetime assistance, but the point is that in Lebanon, local government would police the camps with most illiberal means. Just like it bombarded a refugee camp with artillery to quench the Fatah al Islam insurrection, the Lebanese army will do the same to other Palestinian terrorists. This is in no small part because Lebanese, like other Arabs, hate Palestinians; but it would also be done to avoid Israeli retaliation against Lebanon for Palestinian attacks.

The seemingly cruel measures are often the kindest.