The latest round of Hamas rocket fire has served as a painful reminder for many Israelis that as much as they might wish to leave Gaza behind, Gaza does not want to leave us.
Once again, Israeli civilians have found themselves running to bomb shelters in the middle of the night, calming young children terrorized by sirens, with their sleep disturbed and their psyches traumatized by the piercing sounds of explosions.
This is no longer happening "only in Sderot," as if that were somehow acceptable or tolerable, but has come to envelop the entire country, suddenly presenting the Jewish state with a choice that is as stark as it is unpleasant.
Simply put, Israel either finds a way to live alongside Hamastan, a Taliban-style enclave run by an increasingly dangerous terrorist organization, or it reasserts full military control over Gaza. The problem of course is that while the former seems unthinkable, the latter appears unimaginable. And therein lies the dilemma.
Sadly, however, there are times in life when choosing between the unthinkable and the unimaginable is the only option one has, and this would clearly appear to be such a situation.
After all, Hamas has shown itself over the years to be far more than just a pesky, troublesome and iniquitous neighbor. As the recent violence has demonstrated, its capabilities are not limited to merely hurling rockets and other explosive projectiles at Israeli towns and cities.
From a strategic perspective, Hamas has upped its game, fomenting unprecedented violence among Israeli Arabs, further radicalizing the younger generation while alienating it from any sense of identification with the state.
Despite suffering heavy blows from the Israel Air Force, the terrorist group has nonetheless continued to fire hundreds of rockets at will, even going so far as to announce in advance the timing of various attacks. It is easy to see this as mere bravado or perhaps an attempt to engage in psychological warfare by implicitly sending the message that Hamas will do what it wants when it wants.
Either way, the fact remains that a band of diabolical delinquents and villainous vandals have succeeded once again in bringing the country to a standstill.
And as we all know, this is hardly the first time they have done so.
Consider the following brief timeline of the past 15 years:
Barely a year after the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the IDF found itself back in the Strip in June 2006, after the Palestinians continued firing rockets at Israel and kidnapped Corporal Gilad Schalit.
By the beginning of November that year, the Jewish state had pulled out once again, only to resume ground operations in Gaza in February 2008 in the wake of incessant Palestinian attacks.
After a six-month ceasefire was declared in June 2008, Hamas resumed its fire in December 2008, prompting Israel to launch Operation Cast Lead, which came to an end the following month.
IF YOU ARE finding this difficult to follow, let alone comprehend, that is because it is. But there was more to come.
In November 2012, the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense, a week-long operation conducted, yet again, with the aim of putting a halt to Hamas rockets. This was followed by Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, when Israeli troops reentered Gaza to clear out the terrorist infrastructure.
Needless to say, after each and every one of these rounds, Israeli government spokesmen dusted off the same platitudes, assuring the public that Hamas had been dealt an overwhelming blow and quiet would now prevail.
We all know how that worked out.
And so, here we are once again, in a situation that has begun to resemble a lethal and entirely lachrymose real-life version of the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, in which the hapless star finds himself reliving the same day again and again, trapped in a seemingly endless loop.
Only unlike the Hollywood tale, which ends with love and romance, Israel's recurring encounters with Hamas are anything but comical.
The cold, hard truth is that when Israel left Gaza in 2005, it created a vacuum, one that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups were quick to fill. They transformed the 365 square kilometers (141 square miles) under their control into a training ground and launching pad for unprecedented acts of violence against Israel and its citizens.
If we wish, we can continue to play ping-pong Gaza-style, deploying the IAF and sending in ground troops every few years while paying frequent visits to our bomb shelters.
Or, we can finally say, "enough is enough," reassert full control over Gaza and topple the Hamas regime once and for all before they get their hands on even more deadly armaments such as chemical or biological weapons.
Yes, neither one of these scenarios is ideal or easy, and both carry heavy costs. But we cannot and must not accept the current situation. 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 put an end to this madness.
When a five-year-old Jewish child in Sderot is murdered by shrapnel from a Palestinian rocket, and an 89-year old Holocaust survivor in Ashkelon is seriously wounded in a similar attack, it is a clear indication that the time for putting aside the unthinkable and embracing the unimaginable might finally have arrived.