Pete, I concur entirely. Now critics will offer the alternative view: no decisive victory is possible so the Israelis aren’t being deprived of any opportunity to achieve a clear outcome. They’ve made their point, the international crowd declares. And it’s time to move along before Hamas suffers a grievous blow. But delivering such a lethal blow is the point, isn’t it?
What Israel can do is weaken Hamas further in its current ground operations by raiding targets that cannot be attacked from the air–typically because they are in the basements of crowded apartment buildings–and by engaging Hamas gunmen in direct combat. Simply reducing the combat strength of Hamas is crucial, as it was in 2006 against Hezbollah, because while many like to parade dressed in the robes of martyrs, when there is actual fighting enthusiasm rapidly wanes.
With few exceptions, Israeli ground forces are not advancing frontally but are instead mounting a multiplicity of raids. If their target intelligence remains as good as it was during the air attack, they will run out of targets in a matter of days. That is when a cease-fire with credible monitoring would be possible and desirable for both sides as the only alternative to renewed occupation.
Hamas will claim a win no matter what happens, but then so did Hezbollah in 2006. And yet, for the most part, Hezbollah remains immobile and the Israeli northern border with Lebanon remains quiet. If Israel can achieve the same with Hamas in Gaza, it would be a significant victory.
It seems so familiar–waiting for the State Department to leap, the White House to buckle, and the Israelis to relent. But maybe everyone has learned something since 2006. And come to think of it, the newest man on the block might have figured it out. At least so far, the President-elect (the person with the most potential leverage and political capital) is content to let events play out before he is sworn in. Maybe he and his advisors have stumbled, albeit silently, onto just the right approach for both the American and Israeli government to embrace.
After all, letting the Israelis determine for themselves when and whether they have achieved their goal would be the kind of change many of us could believe in.