At the time of Arafat’s death Israel and the PA were in the midst of “peace” negotiations and the unassuming Abu Mazen, a leading negotiator in the Oslo Agreements, was chosen to replace the PLO leader. The Palestinian might have continued the contacts with Israel were he the peace-seeker described but opted instead to integrate Hamas, guns and all, into a united Palestinian front. Bush then, in America’s determination to bring Democratize the Middle East, imposed Hamas into the 2007 Palestinian elections. Hamas WON! As Israel and Abu Mazen warned the American president and to rectify his mistake Bush used the Fatah war lord Dahlan to spearhead a coup against the now democratically elected Hamas government, which took refuge in Gaza. And today Israel is at war, not with the remnants of that terrorist organization, but with what clearly is today the army of Gaza, otherwise described as Hamastan.
I am not a blind hawk, I do not advocate war nor do I demand Pax Israelensis on the region. I do not believe force the answer. Nor do I believe, after a century of rejection that any likely Palestinian leadership presently available will deviate from a century of Palestinian rejectionism.
With this as backdrop what are Israel’s options in Gaza? Hamas has not withered under the economic strains resulting from the blockade, has simply made its “humanitarian” appeal for Gaza and diverted the benefits of the “appeal” to tunnels and rockets, built a trained and clearly resourceful military capable of fighting Israel to a standoff if, as I read today, Israel is about to call a halt to ground ops. If so, If Israel opts for a war of attrition leaving Hamas intact then perhaps she will just have to tolerate the previous status quo ante, a few rockets here and there. And what happens next year, or that following, when Israel finally confronts nuclear Iran and will also have to deal with Hezbollah in the north, and Hamas in the south. Now both fully rearmed and with next generation weaponry supplied, as recently promised, by Iran?
The war in Gaza is not about “teaching Hamas a lesson,” as described, but about removing a potential game-changer in Israel’s next major confrontation, with Iran.
Israel, appearing relatively weak and vulnerable for NOT finishing the job in Gaza and ridding the Strip of Hamas, et al entire and, yes, reoccupying if necessary: Hamas has to be removed as an army. Hamas certainly won’t be entirely destroyed and will return to its previous state as a terrorist threat alongside the others mostly evicted from Gaza.
Facing a highly unstable Middle East where even a backwater terrorist group like ISIL can grab large tracts of crumbling Arabia Israel has to defend itself going forward. That demands Israel begin by eliminating Gaza as a backdoor threat.
To retreat from Gaza would be an open announcement that Israel today is no longer the “invincible Israel of 1967. An announcement of vulnerability. An invitation to all jihadis.