As soon as the IDF started pounding the Gaza strip with massive artillery fire and attacks from the air, it was a sign of the end of this polite skirmish. In fact, as soon as the artillery started, I knew it was either to soften the ground in preparation for the ground invasion, or the final salvo armies traditionally deliver before the truce, to inflict as much damage as they still can, and so they’ll have less to schlep home afterwards.
Wars are a wonderful way to clear up the shelves for the new shipment of ammo.
Like the rest of us, Netanyahu, Barak, Liberman et al have weighed the benefits and risks of a ground invasion of a densely populated and very hostile Gaza, and decided to be prudent. All they need is for one bad move to end up in mass killings of either our boys, God forbid, or, possibly even worse, Arab civilians, two months before the elections. So they kicked the can to themselves down the road, as many have anticipated.
After today’s cabinet meeting, one senior Israeli official told Reuters: “Before deciding on a ground invasion, the prime minister intends to exhaust the diplomatic move in order to see if a long-term ceasefire can be achieved.”
Diplomatic moves must include Egypt, Gaza’s Muslim Brothers’ home office. President Mohamed Morsi took a call from Obama on Monday, with a clear request (we’ll call it that) to make Hamas stop shooting rockets into Israel.
The Egyptians have been working on that project ever since (well, almost two days, but it felt longer). We’ll see what kind of hybrid they’ve cobbled.
Here are the difficulties Israel had to consider:
1. It cannot negotiate with Hamas without directly destabilizing the Fatah government in Judea and Samaria. 2. It cannot invade Gaza without removing Hamas which entails staying there as a provisional government – not something the Israeli PM is looking forward to. 3. Whatever truce is reached tonight will not be worth the paper on which it is written.
All of the above suggests that the military cost of Operation Pillar of Defense, combined with the 1200 reported cases of serious damage to property over the past week – not to speak of the lives lost – will only buy Israel a few months of quiet.
Netanyahu, Barak, and Liberman tonight decided to avoid confronting the bully all the way. But as history teaches us, the bully you failed to confront in 1936, at a relatively low cost, or in 1938, at a higher cost, finally forced you to confront him in 1939 at the highest cost imaginable.
I wish all of us a safe life and a happy Hanukah.