Writing in the Daily Beast’s “Open Zion” former Israeli intelligence operative and strategic expert Yossi Alpher offers his thoughts on Israel’s offensive against Hamas targets (an 11-month old is reportedly among the civilian causalities) in the Gaza Strip today:
So why am I worried? First and foremost, because our leadership still has no viable strategy for dealing with Hamas in Gaza. Even the objectives of this offensive as outlined by Defense Minister Barak Wednesday evening—strengthening deterrence, destroying rockets, hurting the terrorist organizations, defending the Israeli civilian rear—are tactical and temporary, not strategic. Having tried and failed to choke Hamas economically, having invaded the Strip four years ago at a heavy price in international condemnation without achieving more than a few months’ peace and quiet, and having undertaken, along with the Quartet, not to talk to Hamas (which in any case won’t talk to Israel), the Olmert and Netanyahu governments have for five years (since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza) sufficed with tactics, not strategy.
The most this operation can do is achieve a few more months of quiet that will get Netanyahu and Barak through the coming elections. By demonstrating that the PLO does not control Gaza, it might also slightly damage that organization’s credibility as it seeks U.N. recognition for a state that comprises Gaza. That’s the best case. It assumes that Hamas will not seriously escalate and cause heavy loss of life in Israel. It also assumes that an errant bomb won’t accidentally kill a bunch of kids in Khan Yunis or Rafah, thereby bringing down upon us the wrath of the world.