Just about every Israeli analysis I have read insists that the relative restraint of Israel in Gaza is temporary. Hamas
is attacking with increasing boldnness, but Israel
is refraining from "the big raid" because of the upcoming Independence Day celebrations and the visit of George Bush. But soon the carnival will be over, and then, in summer, say the various analysts, Israel will attack.
That, for example, is the opinion of Ha'aretz miltary analysts Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
, and it is the opinion of Yaakov Katz in the Jerusalem Post
. Jerusalem Post also quotes Major General Yoav Galant
as pointing out that the recent attacks were the most severe violence attempted by Hamas. But it quotes former deputy Deputy Minister Ephraim Sneh as saying:
At some point there will be no choice but to enter the Gaza Strip militarily, but only when we have an exit plan.
"But only when we have an exit plan" is the first of several "buts" concerning any possible invasion of Gaza. An exit plan is not really in sight, is it? It is like saying "Next year in Jerusalem - provided the Messiah comes." There are a few other "buts." Israel cannot undertake an extensive Gaza operation without sufficient provocation. The art of Hamas operations is that they seem to know exactly how much terror Israel is willing to absorb, and how much terror the world will take, before Israeli public opinion forces an attack, and before world public opinion is willing to tolerate it. Hamas also know that Israel is reluctant to attack before the Independence Day celebrations are over. They are striking while the iron is hot. After the celebrations are over, Hamas may sober up and settle down to quietly smuggling arms across the border and other minor annoyances. They may also initiate another series of "nonviolent" demonstrations like the one that fizzled not long ago, which was, in fact, supposed to be the cover for a terror attack that was foiled.
The danger for Hamas is that they may over-play their hand, and carry out a terror raid or kidnapping during the period before the independence celebrations that will cause so much damage that it will force Israel to retaliate, exit plan or no exit plan, world opinion or no world opinion. In the logic of provocation and retaliation, intent doesn't matter. "Almost" does not count. The latest terror attacks were meant to be kidnapping operations it seems, but they failed. Several Grad rockets have also landed in Ashkelon. As luck would have it, they didn't do much damage. A katyusha ("Grad") rocket that falls on a chemical plant in Ashkelon, or a successful kidnapping attempt that carries off a few soldiers to keep company with Gilad Schalit could conceivably trigger a massive retaliatory raid. It probably would not trigger the "decisive" operation aimed at eliminating Hamas, unless the IDF is ready for that operation. The other "but" of course, is that every partial operation, or worse, a massive operation that fails to uproot Hamas, will be considered a Hamas "victory" no matter how much damage it does.
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Replies: 1 Comment
It may well be a mistake to leave the initiative with Hamas. Perhaps a leaf can be taken from their MO. Small, hurtful raids that will put the Gazans on notice that Hamas cannot protect them. There are ways to inflict damage that will shock and confuse, and throw them on the defensive. They shold be considered.
Howard Wolf, Tuesday, April 22nd
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