In the end, it was an ordinary day. The dire predictions that the Hamas demonstration in Gaza would turn into an attempted storming of the Israeli border, similar to the mass breaching of the Egyptian frontier that occurred several weeks ago, did not come to pass.
All that happened was that five Kassam rockets, close to the daily average, landed in the town of Sderot, one wounding a 10-year-old boy whose arm was saved from amputation by the surgeons.
It's clear that Israeli policy toward Gaza is not working. The rockets keep falling, repeated military strikes against the Palestinians who are deploying them don't seem to make much of a difference, and Israeli economic sanctions are only winning more and more international sympathy for the Gazans, and with them, for their Hamas government.
It's hard to convince the world that more than a million people deserve to live in penury and hunger just because small groups among them keep firing primitive missiles at the country next-door.
Discouraging, too, was the announcement last week by Israel's government that it has decided to budget a quarter of a billion dollars for the building of shelters in Sderot, which has been the chief target of the Kassams, and in other, smaller villages near the Gaza Strip.
This is a sizable sum. It is tantamount to an official declaration saying, "Since the rockets from Gaza are going to continue and we are not going to be able to stop them, at least let every family within range of them have its own private room to hide in."
This is unacceptable. A country with the most powerful army in the Middle East should not be telling its citizens that it cannot put an end to their being harassed day after day by a few hundred irregulars shooting at them from fields and back yards a few miles away.
Israel has either to force Hamas to stop the Kassams or give it some other reason for doing so. Resigning itself to living with them, as one learns to live with flies or mosquitoes, is not a solution.
Greater force would work better. So would negotiations. Israel's government should decide on one or the other.
Force would have to be more massive than anything that has been applied until now.
A few months ago I suggested in these pages that Israel should make clear that, as of such-and-such a date, any rocket fired at an Israeli residential neighborhood would be met with far more deadly artillery fire directed at a residential neighborhood in Gaza.
Yes, Palestinians would be killed, large numbers of rockets would fly back in return, and international protests would be voiced ó but after a few rounds of such tit for tat, internal Palestinian pressure on Hamas would make the rockets cease.
Others, with greater wisdom, have proposed a more refined and less lethal version of this policy. In retaliation for each Kassam attack, they have said, let Israel demolish a neighborhood in the Gaza Strip with artillery fire while first giving sufficient advance warning for its residents to be evacuated.
There would be no loss of life and the ultimate results would be the same. After several such neighborhoods were leveled, there would be enough Palestinians afraid of being next in line to make Hamas step in and put an end to it.
On the other hand, negotiations with Hamas might also succeed. What Hamas wants most of all is for Israel and the international community to recognize the legitimacy of its rule in Gaza and for its borders with both Israel and Egypt to be unblocked. In return, there are signs that it would be willing to agree to a long-term ceasefire.
Until now, Israel has rejected this idea. It has not wanted to legitimize Hamas, in part because the organization is dedicated to Israel's destruction; in part because the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, with which Israel is now conducting a semblance of peace talks, does not want Hamas to be recognized; and in part because Israel fears that opening the Egyptian border would lead to the large-scale smuggling into Gaza of arms that might be turned against it at some future date.
But none of these calculations necessarily makes much sense. There is nothing wrong with negotiating temporary arrangements with those bent on ultimately destroying you as long as you make it clear that you are also bent on ultimately destroying them.
The peace talks with the Palestinian Authority are going nowhere, and, in any case, the PA has been conducting behind-the-scenes negotiations of its own with Hamas and will never sign any peace accord that the latter strenuously opposes.
As for arms smuggling from Egypt, this does not really matter so much as long as Israel allows itself to rely on its deterrent power, which until now it has been reluctant to make use of. What Hamas has in its arsenal is not so terribly important if it is afraid to press the trigger.
The government has to make up its mind. It can hit Gaza harder or it can talk to Hamas more, but it can't let things go on as they are without losing the respect, not only of the inhabitants of Sderot, but of the entire country. There are better uses for a quarter of a billion dollars than to spend them as a confession of one's own impotence.
Mr. Halkin is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.