As my faithful readers know, tomorrow I expect to board a flight from Los Angeles to Israel, with a one-way ticket and enough household stuff in 6 suitcases and duffel bags for my wife and myself to survive for the month or so it will take the rest of our goods (presently in a container on a ship in the East China sea) to follow us. So this blog will be quiet for a few days while we get the new World Headquarters of Abu Yehuda organized in Rehovot.
Possibly by the time I get there, the government’s Gaza strategy will be more clear. Today much of the IDF in Gaza is withdrawing, while other units are continuing to destroy tunnels. It has been announced that Israel will not participate in any ceasefire talks with Hamas, and that the operation will continue. But it seems clear that there isn’t going to be a thrust at Hamas’ heart.
It looks as though the plan, once the tunnel threat is eliminated, is to allow Hamas to continue firing rockets while Israel hits back at launchers from the air. Ultimately Hamas will run out of rockets and will lose more and more of its personnel and infrastructure. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers will be out of harm’s way — safe, especially, from capture — and Iron Dome will keep the rockets from doing more than ‘acceptable’ damage.
In other words, Israel wants to turn the conflict into a war of attrition against Hamas, held at arms length for weeks while it is battered to a pulp by air strikes and artillery.
It might work, given several conditions:
1. The tunnel threat is completely neutralized. The danger from even one tunnel that is not detected — the kidnapping of Israelis or a mass-casualty terror attack — is very great.
2. Hamas will not get lucky with one or more of its rockets.
3. The US and other players can be kept at bay. A recent remarkably stupid State Department statement (one analyst called it a “near-hysterical press release” couched in “intemperate and irresponsible language”) makes one wonder.
I can understand the desire to avoid further IDF casualties. The problem is that if this strategy doesn’t work, if the inevitable ‘humanitarian’ rebuilding of Gaza allows a still-living Hamas to spring back like an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, then the next round will be uglier than this one. This time, the tunnels were almost a game-changer. Next time it might be chemical or radioactive warheads, or missiles with multiple warheads that Iron Dome can’t intercept. Who knows?
Whether Hamas will be crushed by a massive, expensive blow — which also raises the tough question of what will replace it in control of Gaza — or whether the IDF will try to wear it down to the point that it can be forced to give up the arms it has left, one thing is certain: any ending that doesn’t both totally disarm Hamas and ensure that it can’t rearm will guarantee an even more vicious conflict next time.