It’s not an exaggeration. Once every hour or two, a friend or reader calls me and says, “Suggest to the senior brass that they speed up the entry into Gaza. Tell them to strike harder. We have to break their bones,” they say.
It sounds very nice, but it’s a very problematic, complicated operation and it is doubtful if it is worth the price.
Today or tomorrow the decision will have to be made. Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu convened the security establishment in Be’er Sheva for a closed meeting on the continuation of Protective Edge. For some time, the ground option has been on the table.
But it’s not a good idea to get excited about it.
There is no doubt that the abscess called “terror groups in Gaza” needs to be drained by Israel at some point or another. It is a concentrated terror state with 15,000 missiles and tunnels spanning tens of kilometers underground. The day will come and we will have to go into this “state,” puncture the abscess and clean it out. There is no question about it, and everyone agrees on this point — the politicians, the army, the coalition and the opposition.
But it is not clear that now is the time to do it. Hamas is in decline in the Gaza Strip and is losing support on all sides, from within and from the outside. The Egyptians are against them. The group’s stance on Syria and its indirect connections with parts of al-Qaida, as well as the fact that it is a subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, distances them from the more rational groups in the Arab Muslim street. The Europeans and Americans also understand that they are a problematic bunch.
Due to their status in the world and among their own, they pressured Palestinian Authority figures to return to Gaza and put up a show of a unity government, which hasn’t gone anywhere. There is one government, technically, but there is no unity, and the little bit that was there is on the verge of unraveling.
At this point, a few despicable murderers, affiliated with Hamas, dragged the entire group into the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish boys. That act eroded the little bit of recognition the group still had in the world. At this time, they should have done everything to avoid a confrontation with Israel, which was bleeding and mourning over the tragedy.
But understanding and logic are not Hamas’ strong points and they thought otherwise. The groups’ political arm lost the internal battle against the military wing. The conflict began. And it fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of some Israelis who think this is the perfect minute to retaliate and settle accounts.
And that’s how this whole scenario unfolded into war, even though the leadership on both sides didn’t want it.
Israel is striking Hamas hard with tons of explosives. Senior Hamas operatives will get the shock of their lives when they emerge from their hiding places and discover their homes razed to the ground. The heads of Hizbullah have still not recovered to this day from the damage their homes sustained during the Second Lebanon War.
Israel is striking hard, but from the air, without paying the price of a ground operation. If we were convinced that the senior echelons in Israel want to go into Gaza today to clean it out — by all means. But they don’t really want to. They want to deal Hamas a serious blow so it should get down on all fours and capitulate. But meanwhile, that hasn’t happened. Hamas is firing back, and there’s no game changer.
Meanwhile, there is also no good mediator who will get involved and drag the two sides to a deal. Israel needs to consider what it really wants. And, the truth is, it does not, at this point, want to dismantle the bones of Hamas officials, but rather to restore the ceasefire framework implemented after Pillar of Defense. This can be achieved by expanding the air strikes, but without a ground operation, which will cost a lot of blood and money, and ultimately, it is doubtful if it will achieve the desired goal.
Israel has not yet decided that it really wants to capture the entire Gaza Strip and hold onto it for several years until it is “cleaned out.” And as long as it is not going in that direction, and many of its leaders cast doubt if it is at all possible to succeed in doing so, it is better to keep on striking from the air, deeper and harder, to the maximum point possible. That will bring to the same accomplishments as a ground operation without paying the price.