With the beginning of ground operations in Gaza, Israel has not only set itself a more immediately difficult military challenge, but also locked itself into a more ambitious mission over-all. The longer the IDF stays in Gaza, the more important it becomes that the end result of the operation be both dramatic and easily defined.
If after weeks of what the mainstream media has taken to calling a “bombardment” and a “pummeling” Israel can only claim that rocket launch pads have been temporarily degraded or that “many” munitions caches have been blown up, it will come out the loser of the public relations war — no matter how many fires rage in the Gaza skyline. Israel is the only country in the world that can be excoriated for its disproportionate response one day, and then immediately criticized for its military failure in the wake of this supposedly outsized and undeserved retaliation.
Israeli leadership needs Hamas to say, even disingenuously, “We give up.” Either that or the IDF needs to degrade Hamas leadership to the point of recognizable impotence. During the next days and weeks of fighting, international sympathies will take an even sharper turn in favor of Gazans. This is unavoidable, and Israel need not concern itself with the criticism that comes its way during operations. It matters not that Israel called innocent Gazans and urged them to leave in advance of the ground fighting or that it facilitated the exit of visitors to Gaza — the Jewish state might as well write off any hope of earning the world’s compassion. But sympathy constitutes the less important half of Israel’s PR goal. It is far more important to the country’s existence that Israelis preserve – in fact, reclaim – their reputation as the most formidable fighting force in the region. This is an attainable objective, but it will only be demonstrable when the smoke clears. And then, only with the showcasing of quantifiable evidence.