Monday, December 29, 2008

So Where Is Israel's Operation Headed?

The two camps have formed as expected--One side defending Israel's actions, the other condemning them; one praising Israel for restraint and pinpoint targeting terrorist targets while the other accuses Israel of acting all out of proportion.

What has not really become clear--or at least a topic of debate--yet is just what the goal for Israel really is and what it can expect when the operation is over.

According to Ralph Peters, at most--Israel will have bought itself time, but not peace:
It's a rare conflict that results in an enduring peace. Unintended consequences abound. At times, you fight just to buy time, to gain breathing space - or merely to frustrate an enemy's designs for a limited period.

That's the situation Israel faces: No hope of an ultimate victory, but a constant fight to survive. Enemies who believe their god ordains their actions can't be placated. For faith-fueled terrorists, such as the core members of Hamas, the struggle with Israel's a zero-sum game. Compromise is, at most, an expedient tool, never an acceptable end state.

What will we see in the coming days? Much depends on Israel's resolve. The most probable scenario is that Hamas will continue launching terror rockets for a few weeks to salve its wounded vanity and maintain the image of "resistance," but will ultimately reduce its attacks against Israel - while it rebuilds its cadres and restocks its arsenal.

Israel will have bought time, not peace.

What might Israel have done better? It's essential to take out the top terrorist leaders. But Israel's government remains reluctant to target the cowardly Hamas leaders hiding in Damascus - or even the top terrorists remaining in Gaza.

For terrorist bosses, the rank-and-file are disposable and replaceable. You can't just kill the gunmen. You have to kill the names.
While pondering what the operation might bring, the one problem is that Israel knows it has been here before. Michael B. Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi write in today's Wall Street Journal:
Israelis are now asking themselves whether their Lebanon nightmare is about to repeat itself in Gaza. The parallels are indeed striking. As in Lebanon, Israel in 2005 unilaterally withdrew to its international border with Gaza and received, instead of security, a regime dedicated to its destruction. The thousands of rockets and mortar shells subsequently fired on Israeli neighborhoods represented more than a crude attempt to kill and terrorize civilians -- they were expressions of a genocidal intent.
It is Israel's ability to deal militarily and decisively with that genocidal intent from a nearby neighbor that makes it so crucial for Israel to be able to bring the operation to a satisfactory conclusion. That is why the armchair critics with their kneejerk condemnations are missing the point of why this operation is so important and why Hamas must lose:
Gaza is the test case. Much more is at stake than merely the military outcome of Israel's operation. The issue, rather, is Israel's ability to restore its deterrence power and uphold the principle that its citizens cannot be targeted with impunity.

Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat. They will continue to share the left-wing vision of coexistence with a peaceful Palestinian neighbor in theory, but in reality will heed the right's warnings of Jewish powerlessness.

The Gaza crisis also has implications for Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Here, too, Israelis will be unwilling to cede strategically vital territories -- in this case on the Golan Heights -- in an international environment in which any attempt to defend themselves will be denounced as unjustified aggression. Syria's role in triggering the Gaza conflict only deepens Israeli mistrust. The Damascus office of Hamas, which operates under the aegis of the regime of Bashar al Assad, vetoed the efforts of Hamas leaders in Gaza to extend the cease-fire and insisted on escalating rocket attacks.

If these critics--and the UN as a whole--are really concerned with bringing peace to the region and ending the tension in the Middle East, then countries must be able to feel safe from the threats of the likes of Hizbollah and Hamas and the machinations of the countries behind them such as Iran and Syria.

Alot was riding on Israel's war with Hizbollah 2 years ago.
Now Israel--and the world--have a second chance.

Thanks to Memeorandum for the link!

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