No end in sight. Palestinian casualties are above 350 dead and 1,500 injured. Others are still buried under the rubble. Many of the injured are not able to obtain adequate treatment. Protests mount across the Middle East, as well as in Europe and North America. So far the governments of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, and Egypt accept the Israeli narrative. With allies like that, the United Nations and the international left can protest without much effect.
Disinformation is part of this war like any other. It began with Israeli deceptions meant to convey that attack was not imminent. Hamas did not stop its ceremonies or send its people underground, and suffered significant losses in four minutes.
As best as can be gathered from actions and statements, Israel's purpose is to destroy the infrastructure and will of Hamas. This is set against the Lebanon War of 2006, which ended with both achievements and problems. The achievement was the extensive destruction, which sent a message that adventures against Israel would be costly. Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has spent most of his time in hiding since then, speaking to his audience via television.
The problem of Lebanon was the sense that Israel could not overcome Hizbollah despite a month of fighting. Hizbollah recovered via imports of munitions, and a stronger position in Lebanese politics.
Israel's purpose now is to attain the achievement of Lebanon: to send a message of destruction, without leaving Hamas as a leader Islamic extremism.
No one should view this as Israel's war to end all wars. Fatah is unlikely to lead a Palestinian community that will live in peace. Iran, Syria, and Islamic Palestinians will do what they can to revive Hamas. We should expect an escalation of Palestinian nationalism and hatred of Israel, the United States, Egypt, and other Arab elites that have not signed on to the Hamas rhetoric. Signs are apparent in demonstrations in Arab villages, urban neighborhoods, and the universities with concentrations of Arab students, along with their Jewish supporters.
Mahmoud Abbas is not the man to exploit the situation. Nor is there anyone else in the aging cadre of Fatah leadership who seems up to the task. Younger Palestinian politicians may be just as intransigent, at least in the period after this war.
It will be enough, for the time being, if Palestinians and other Muslim extremists fear Israel.
Is this pessimism?
I view myself as a sad optimist. Palestinian casualties and the persistence of the traditional Palestinian posture sadden me.
I am optimistic for Israel. I admire its capacity for lively debate, opposition to any simple view of a national mission, and ability to cope with serious problems. The IDF was busy during the years of tolerating missile attacks on civilian areas close to Gaza, and seems to have recovered from Lebanon 2006. The homefront command is better prepared for rocket attacks. Intelligence is impressive, including telephone numbers of families living in buildings also used for storing or manufacturing missiles. The army phoned them, in Arabic, and warned of impending destruction.
Four Israelis have died as the result of Hamas missiles, two of them Arabs. Casualties will escalate if the hundreds of tanks and thousands of ground troops now on the borders move into Gaza. The costs to Hamas will also increase. It will not be an invasion to solve Israel's problems. Enough if it dissuades Hamas and its friends from madness.
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Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Dept of Political Science
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem