Hamas likewise considers the Gaza war a “victory,” the straight-face proclamation of which requires selectively forgetting that Israel decimated all worthy targets before marching in with ground troops to intensify the attacks, while incurring minimal casualties. Then Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire and sent its troops home. Hamas’s role in the whole process was largely confined to that of a punching bag. But it was nonetheless not exterminated, and by the standards established by Middle Eastern tradition, anything short of utter annihilation is a victory — indeed, a great victory.Dictators, like terrorists, seem to be big on moral victories.
In light of that fact, Thayer concludes:
Anything less than total, complete, abject defeat of Hamas, Hezbollah, and their ilk will be declared a great victory by terrorists, and a grave defeat for Israel. Israeli leaders should keep that in mind through all future conflicts.I'm just not sure how much more Israel could do to physically destroy Hamas.
Looking backward--during a conference call, Brigadier General Effie described the military goals of Operation Cast Lead this way:
o Israel must make sure that the Philadelphia Corridor or southern part of Gaza will not be used as achannel to smuggle in arms. If one cannot turn off the fuel, one cannot turn out the flames. There will be no missiles and no weapons through there. Should be a diplomatic effort--Israel, Egypt and some international forces should see to this. Egypt control can be relatively easily achieved.If the IDF had been allowed to fully achieve these goals, then indeed Hamas calls of victory could be ignored--by the Muslim world as well.
o There is a need to separate the general Gazan population from the Hamas terror organization and move as many civilians as possible to southern Gaza from Gaza City and open an area in the dunes of what was Gush Katif. An area for humanitarian aid will be created, because now the problem is that the aid is not coming into the hands of the civilian population but to Hamas. We are talking about approximately 300,000-400,000 people who will get the best care for their temporary stay until Gaza City is cleared out from terrorists.
o Gaza city will be a hunting zone where Israel knows only Hamas and their supporters remain. After about a week it will be possible to bring Hamas to a ponit where they will not be able/willing to shoot ‘for quite a long time’.
Failing that, if the end result is nothing but a brief resbit--nothing short of international cooperation with Israel to put real limitations on Hamas can be considered victory.
A number of world leaders came to Israel to pledge to Olmert their cooperation to do just that--reminiscent of the cooperation pledged to keep Hizbollah in check.
We'll see if this time the West gets it right.
UPDATE: I wrote about Israel's goals as described by Brigadier General Effie Eitam. Here is a description of Iran's goals for Hamas, as described by Ed Morrissey:
The Iranians wanted three results out of the Hamas fight, none of which they achieved, in order to cast the battle as a victory for the Islamist terrorists. Hamas was supposed to have trapped the IDF infantry in street-to-street fighting with booby traps and tunnels, killing as many Israeli soldiers as possible. Increased rocket attacks were to show that any IDF action was pointless. Lastly, Hamas was supposed to capture an IDF soldier for ransom or at least provide a burned-out tank to exploit on Western media.Bottom line, Hamas may yell that they were victorious--but Iran knows better.
Instead, Hamas failed to achieve even one of those objectives. They miscalculated the reaction from Israel, and as a result, their defensive efforts got overwhelmed in the invasion. The massive force kept IDF casualties low while Hamas lost hundreds of terrorists. They failed, at least as is known, to capture a single Israeli soldier for propaganda purposes. They couldn’t stop Israeli tanks, and the Iranian Unit of Tehran-trained commandos got destroyed by the IDF in Gaza City. Even the rocket attacks dwindled during the offensive.