The question that remains is how Israel is going to respond, beyond the air attacks on targets within Gaza.While Israel Hayom reports that the Countdown to large ground operation in Gaza has begun, there are doubts we will see a repeat of Operation Cast Lead:
All throughout Sunday and Monday, southern residents have been calling for the government to restore quiet to the southern frontier. Israel's newspapers have been filled with photos of residents in bomb shelters, and this is likely to increase the pressure on the government. It is however unlikely that the government will decide to launch a massive ground operation at this stage, but it is expected that the Israel Defense Forces will be ordered to strike the Hamas leadership in Gaza.The Israeli leaders quoted in the article on what course of action to take fell into 2 categories:
The IDF is expected to "gradually escalate" its response and not to send ground troops into Gaza, Israel Radio reported. The IDF will not accept a situation of "attrition" and is keen to change the balance, the radio reported.
- Homefront Defense Minister Avi Dichter warned that Israel must invade Gaza with ground troops, because terrorism cannot be stopped by air power alone.
- Tzachi Hanegbi, former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and associate of Netanyahu, spoke of "a countdown toward a large and aggressive ground operation in the Gaza Strip...The terror organizations in Gaza want to drag us into a conflict there so that we take our attention off the real threat, which is from Iran." Hanegbi spoke of an operation modeled not on Operation Cast Lead but on Operation Defensive Shield -- where IDF forces took over several large Palestinian cities in the Yehudah and Shomron (West Bank) during the Second Intifada and destroyed the terror infrastructure there.
- Labor party leader MK Shelly Yachimovich, like some other politicians, called upon the IDF to begin targeted assassinations of the Hamas leadership.
- Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res) Dan Halutz agreed with Yachimovich, saying that there is "no difference between the military and political leadership of a terrorist organization, Hamas, and that we should start taking heads off."
Killing key terrorist leaders will give Israel a respite, but as we've already seen, Obama's boasting of putting Al Qaeda in disarray with the assassination of bin Laden was just that -- an empty boast.
The goal of a major ground operation will depend on the size of the operation, how far-reaching it is and how long Israel plans to have troops there -- and the amount of pressure the West applies when it assumes enough time has passed.
Whatever Netanyahu is going to do, he will need to decide quickly.
The nature of Israel's response to an actual attack will either strengthen or weaken Israel's hand as it continues to threaten action against the perceived nuclear threat of Iran.
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