In the end, we will enter Gaza. Not because a "major blow" or "wide-scale operation" can really convince a million and a half people living under siege conditions and poverty that they have nothing left to lose and it is worthwhile to rebel against Hamas. This sense of helplessness already exists in any case. For this purpose, unbearable sanctions have been imposed, which are again based on the same distorted conception that failed in Lebanon.
According to this conception, if civilian targets are hit - and this time we are talking about civilians - the people will rebel against Hamas, and everything will be rosy. But we cannot ignore the contradiction here. If the Israeli sanctions - sharply reducing fuel supplies, the plan to cut electricity, closing crossing points and preventing the movement of goods - were really working, there would be no need for a military attack.
Can a military operation succeed where sanctions have failed? This is precisely the moment to remember that the Qassam rockets and arms smuggling via the Philadelphi route tunnels did not start after sanctions were imposed. They were there when the Israel Defense Forces fully controlled Gaza, when targeted and non-targeted liquidations were the rule, and when Israeli intelligence knew where every car was headed. The IDF's reentry to the Strip, with all its armor and aerial might, assumes that this time the result will be different - without a convincing explanation.
The IDF knows that Gaza is not Jenin refugee camp, or south Lebanon. Gaza is a maze of alleyways with thousands of children, women and old people, as well as ordinary men who do not fire Qassams or set off explosives. According to what the IDF has fed the media in recent weeks, Gaza also has an abundance of explosives, weapons of all types, and in particular, plenty of motivation to fight. All this, of course, should not necessarily deter Israel from attacking targets, buildings or Palestinian forces that continue to fire Qassams.
But the IDF already makes such attacks every day. It also enters populated areas, operates unmanned aerial vehicles and fires freely at Qassam squads. What could a wide-scale operation accomplish that the targeted attacks do not? Can we understand from this that just as a wide-scale operation makes clear the ineffectiveness of sanctions, it also attests to the failure of small-scale and targeted operations?
Or perhaps the only purpose of a wide-scale operation is to satisfy the lust for prestige because a state cannot allow its people to be attacked every day and stand idly by. After all, something must be done, and there is nothing wrong with an occasional showcase operation, which at least would give Sderot's residents renewed faith in their government and counter the feeling (which apparently has some basis) that the people of Sderot are considered less important than those of Tel Aviv or Netanya.
But it turns out that the residents of Sderot are not eager for war in Gaza. They only sought protection for their homes, protection that would certainly cost less than the war the IDF is about to wage against Gaza. But there is no prestige in protection; there is no might and no showcase. Protection is a budget item, while war is a demonstration of strength. Regarding protection, the prime minister can say, "We will not protect ourselves to death." But regarding war, one cannot say, "We will not fight ourselves to death." The latter statement lacks the demagogic ring of the former. Besides, the trauma of Lebanon must heal, and there is nothing like a successful war to heal a failed war. But there is no way to certify that this would indeed be a more successful war.
In short: a war is needed. We can only guess what the new Palestinian partner, President Mahmoud Abbas, will say when the IDF accidentally hits a school or health clinic. Will he still be able to shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hand and kiss Olmert's wife on the cheek? We could tell him, of course, that he could do us the honor of wiping out terror himself. Abbas would undoubtedly respond that negotiations exist to serve this very purpose.
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